With private jet usage on the upswing, XOJet’s new initiatives are helping to redefine business aviation
The business-aviation industry has reached its healthiest state in seven years. The industry analyst AR/GUS reported last month in its 2014 survey that business-jet activity reached prerecession levels last year. Flight activity finished up 2.0% compared to 2013. AR/GUS forecasts increasing growth in the first quarter of 2015.
The FAA’s designated Part 135 sector, which includes on-demand charter companies, reported even healthier gains of 3.9% for 2014. Some firms like XOJet saw even stronger results. “We’re seeing annual growth of about 5%,” says Bradley Stewart, CEO of the San Francisco–based firm. “But our profitability growth is much higher and outpacing the industry. Business is good.”
Stewart says that recent changes to XOJet’s business model, which has adopted the tagline “Take Command,” have as much to do with its strong growth as do the industry-wide gains in private aviation’s fortunes. “We’re not in the business of selling airplanes like some of our competitors,” says Stewart. “Our mission is to be the advisor and service provider of choice for the industry’s most sophisticated clients. We have structured our operations so that our clients can take charge of their flying habits.”
XOJet launched in 2006 as an alternative to fractional ownership, where owners have to buy a share of a business jet for five years. The company owns and operates the nation’s largest floating fleet of Challenger 300 and Citation X transcontinental business jets. But instead of the intensive capital and time commitments of fractional ownership, XOJet offers an on-demand charter model where clients have full access to their fleet, plus an additional 900 vetted airplanes, and book flights on a trip-by-trip basis, without any deadlines or restrictions.
“We designed our Preferred Access and Elite Access programs with the ultimate transparency and flexibility,” says Stewart. “Unlike fractional programs, members aren’t locked into five-year commitments. They can leave the program at any time and the balance of their funds are refunded, no questions asked.”
XOJet’s $650 million investment in its new jets and operational infrastructure also means that its clients know that the fleet is being maintained to the industry’s highest standards. XOJet has gained the highest awards from the industry watchdog Wyvern for its safety standards. “You don’t always see this commitment to high standards across the charter industry,” says Stewart. “We’ve also built in ways for our clients to gain the most cost-effective and efficient ways to fly.”
Its two Access client programs boast a 95% retention rate, fueling a large share of financial growth for XOJet. But the company’s new Enterprise Program for corporations has gained a strong following among Silicon Valley tech firms, entertainment companies in Los Angeles, and more traditional Fortune 500 companies.
“They like our fleet of super-midsize jets, with the comforts and free Wi-Fi,” says Stewart. “But they also appreciate the fact that we provide guaranteed lift, even on peak travel days. We also offer the ability to use different aircraft types without a penalty, something that is difficult to do in fractional.”
XOJet has also taken an even greater role with a Fortune 100 client by managing a corporate shuttle service. “We essentially operate an in-house airline for the client,” says Stewart. “We provide everything from maintenance to scheduling to hiring and managing pilots and crews. We’ve created an end-to-end operation that enables their executives to gain back valuable hours and put more productivity in their days.”
This outsourcing of aviation services has become more common, notes Stewart, as private aviation resumes its growth path. “Many companies use XOJet as a supplement to their own flight departments because they don’t want to get into a three-year contract,” he says. “They want to retain high safety standards and a quality experience but still have long-term flexibility.”
XOJET, 650.676.4700, www.xojet.com