Aircraft share owners largely satisfied with their frax provider

 - August 11, 2008, 5:08 AM

A substantial majority of fractional aircraft share owners indicated that they are satisfied with their current program. According to the latest Fractional Aircraft Ownership Experience Study, conducted for the fifth year by Aviation Research Group/US of Cincinnati, 92 percent of fractional aircraft customers are satisfied with their current program and program provider.

The study also found that 80 percent of respondents would renew with their current program (although that was a decrease from last year’s 87 percent), and the most frequently purchased share size is 1/16th (39 percent) with a one-eighth-share size the second most selected (35 percent).

More respondents own Raytheon Beechjets and Hawkers (38 percent) and Cessna Citations (33 percent) than any of the models from other OEMs. Bombardier aircraft were cited by 18 percent of respondents, and both Dassault and Gulfstream came in with 3 percent each.

There is a slight trend toward more personal use of fractional aircraft versus business use by the three major providers–NetJets, Flight Options and Bombardier Flexjet– whose owners were surveyed by ARG/US. Last year, respondents reported using their shares for personal travel 46.7 percent of the time vs 53.3 percent for business. This year, respondents reported they are using the aircraft 47.8 percent of the time for personal use compared with 52.2 percent for business purposes.

Interestingly, Flexjet operators use their aircraft nearly two-thirds of the time for personal transportation compared with less than 50 percent of the time by NetJets customers. Flight Options customers reported
a 50-50 split.

In an effort to enhance the study and include additional meaningful analysis, ARG/ US last year developed a loyalty index. This index is calculated by determining the percentage of customers who gave the highest or most favorable score on all three of the following questions: Overall, how satisfied are you with your current fractional ownership program? How likely would you be to recommend your current program to someone else?  When it is time to renew your contract, how likely would you be to renew?

NetJets garnered the greatest level of loyalty, with 57 percent. Flexjet came in second at 34 percent, and Flight Options achieved 20 percent. Nevertheless, “the majority of responses indicate that owners would be inclined to stay in their current program,” said the survey.

Some 80 percent of NetJets customers said its pricing structure “is easy to understand,” compared with a slim majority for Flight Options and Flexjet. Flight Options topped the other two providers in the category of “best value in the industry” with a 56-percent rating versus 49 percent for NetJets and 37 percent for Flexjet.

On a five-point scale (five being the highest), NetJets had the highest average score
in all eight categories of service, resulting in a mean rating of 4.55. Flight Options had a mean rating of 4.30. Flexjet’s average score was 4.20.

While approximately 98 percent of owners with NetJets and Flight Options were satisfied, Flexjet received a satisfaction rating of 80 percent. The likelihood owners would renew contracts scored 70 percent for Flexjet, and 90 and 83 percent, respectively, for NetJets and Flight Options.

ARG/US concluded that “although the nature of the fractional shareholder remains consistent, their perceptions and opinions regarding their individual programs seem
to fluctuate and shift from one year to the next.” The survey company attributes this to changes in the structure of a given provider (such as mergers and acquisitions) and a program’s ability to manage its aircraft in such a way that its owners still perceive a high level of customer service.

Regardless of how owner opinions evolve, ARG/US said, it is clear that there is a “compelling demand” for this type of transportation. “The continued need for fractional aircraft ownership is evidence that this industry can thrive during challenging economic periods, as well as boom times.”