Some 20 years after it invented the fractional jet business, NetJets continues to dominate the industry in every way. None of the players that have followed it have been able to approach NetJets in size, dependability, and service. And in the meantime, a generation of passengers has grown accustomed to this very pleasant way to fly.
NetJets, which flew over 300,000 times to more than 140 countries in 2005, claims to have made more flights in the past two decades than all other fractional aircraft companies combined. Continuing to gain experience, the company has turned fractional ownership into a science. Its fleet is now so large—more than 600 aircraft, making it the second-largest airline in the world—that it readily meets its commitment to have a plane ready within four to six hours of notification. The company’s pilots have an average of 9,000 hours of flight experience each, well above industry standards. And its devotion to safety has earned it the FAA’s Diamond Certificate of Excellence Award—the agency’s highest form of praise for aviation technical training—every year since 2001.
In 1998, legendary investor Warren Buffett decided that he enjoyed flying with NetJets so much that he would buy the company. Since then, the fractional provider’s access to the deep pockets of Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway, has produced a significant growth spurt. This year, NetJets expects to boost its pilot roster by 19 percent, to about 3,300, while continuing to add aircraft.
At the moment, NetJets fields 14 types of aircraft, ranging from the light Hawker 400XP, beginning at $406,250 for a one-sixteenth share (or 50 hours of flight), to the large-body, transcontinental Gulfstream 550, beginning at $2.625 million. In the middle of the spectrum, the company offers craft such as the Citation Sovereign and the Citation X, each beginning in the million-dollar range. NetJets offers not only fractional aircraft ownership but also jet cards through its Marquis Jet program and charter services through its subsidiary Executive Jet Management.
The fractional concept that seemed so earth-shattering only 20 years ago is now a standard in the private aviation industry. In 2000, NetJets’ success prompted Robb Report to create a brand-new category for fractional aircraft in its annual Best of the Best issue. Needless to say, the company has appeared in these pages ever since.