Sentient Jet merges with JetDirect

 - April 27, 2007, 8:30 AM

Two well known companies that operate and manage charter aircraft and jet travel cards have merged. As reported in AIN last month (page 3), Berwyn, Pa.-based JetDirect has acquired Weymouth, Mass.-based Sentient Jet.

Specific terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but, according to officials, member travel cards of the two companies will be integrated and all the charter operations will be unified under one Part 135 certificate with a centralized dispatch center.

The combined–and as yet unnamed–company will have a fleet of more than 110 aircraft under management. In addition, the new company will also “continue to work extensively with a network of high-quality [Part 135] operators carefully certified and selected as strategic partners.”

JetDirect has been on an acquisition spree for the last 18 months. In late 2005 it acquired and merged with the former New York regional charter/management company Summit Jet and its affiliate, Summit Aviation of Berwyn, Pa. Early last year, JetDirect acquired JetCorp, a maintenance provider, charter operator and FBO in St. Louis. Spirit Aviation, a charter, sales and maintenance provider based in Van Nuys, Calif., became a part of JetDirect late last year. Finally, early this year JetDirect purchased Presidential Aviation, an aircraft management, charter and maintenance company with operations in Fort Lauderdale, New York and Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Sentient Jet has also made news in the last few years. In late 2004 it launched a program targeted toward “low use” business aircraft owners in which the company guarantees that certain managed aircraft will fly at least 600 revenue hours per year. Sentient Jet in early 2005 acquired charter operator Atlantic Aviation Flight Services from Voyager Group.

Acquisitions are likely to continue. Although JetDirect and Sentient Jet officials declined to mention any particular company with which negotiations might be under way, they did say they are continuing to look for “specific” and “strategically directed” acquisitions, particularly in locations where JetDirect does not now have facilities.

Taking on the Fractionals
The combined company feels it has the clout to challenge what it perceives as the declining influence of fractional providers. “The new company’s ability to offer a choice of flexible, high-quality, high-service-level products presents a direct challenge to the capital-intensive approach of NetJets,” said a representative of the new company.

“After growing rapidly in the 1990s, the fractional-ownership segment has struggled for the last several years with single-digit growth and challenging economics.” This official claims many of these problems are the result of supply issues that the fractional companies created through their associated jet card products.

“While the growth of the fractional-ownership model has steadily declined in recent years due to high costs and limited flexibility, this merger creates a national company capable of providing superior service and safety without the capital risk inherent in fractional ownership,” said JetDirect CEO Gregory Campbell. “We now have an established foundation that [lets] us deliver the service and safety that consumers demand.”

Campbell will serve as CEO of the combined company, and Steven Hankin, CEO of Sentient Jet, will serve as president and COO. A name for the combined company had not been selected at press time.