Responding to the brave new world of recession-shaped business aviation, CitationShares last month in New York City unveiled a rebranding that sees the company change its name to CitationAir by Cessna and promote the scope of its offerings beyond the fractional operation it has been since its founding in 2000 as a joint venture between Cessna and Geneva-based Tag Aviation when the two companies bought Wayfarer Starshares (founded in 1998 and flying King Airs exclusively in the Northeast U.S.). Acknowledging that the fractional model is in need of overhaul in the new economic environment, CitationAir president Steve O’Neill said, “This change is necessary because our customers have evolved, and so must we. The private jet industry is facing enormous pressures right now, and in order to thrive we must ensure our business model remains viable and our sales and marketing efforts are leveraging all our points of difference.”
The array of products under the CitationAir by Cessna umbrella includes CitationAir Jet Card (formerly Vector), CitationAir Jet Shares (formerly Citelines), CitationAir Jet Management (formerly JetForth) and CitationAir Corporate Solutions, and the new branding strengthens the company’s relationship with Cessna. The Wichita OEM currently owns 92 percent of CitationAir and expects by next year to absorb the 8 percent still owned by Tag Aviation. Originally the two companies owned equal shares in the enterprise but in 2004 Cessna took a controlling interest. O’Neill describes CitationAir as a “private transportation solutions company” and the private aviation model for the future: “We have been working on this new financial and operational model for the past year and it will completely change the way this business is done.” It removes the need for a sizeable core fleet and charter as supplemental lift, O’Neill said, noting that “aside from payroll, the capital costs of a core fleet have been the highest cost” of traditional frax. “Most fractional operators have had a core fleet comprising 25 percent of the whole fleet. We don’t think that’s necessary any more, and today our core fleet requirements go from 26 percent to 6 percent.” O’Neill also noted that CitationShares’ outside charter requirements have been less than 2 percent for the last year. “The customer is happy because he’s using CitationAir aircraft rather than outside charter, and operational costs for CitationAir go down.”
“More aggressively promoting Cessna’s ownership of CitationAir allows us to better communicate that Cessna offers the full range of transportation solutions, from jet cards and jet shares all the way through to whole aircraft ownership,” said Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton. CitationAir’s fleet will not change from its present type composition of Bravos (currently 14 of them but inactive in this economic maelstrom), CJ3s (21), XLSs (26) and Sovereigns (16), and Greenwich, Conn., will remain the company’s corporate headquarters. Total employment stands at 528, including 320 pilots, and the fleet of Citations has 866 owners.
When asked by AIN if the revamp might tarnish Cessna’s relationship with frax giant NetJets, Pelton expressed no concern, noting that NetJets has no Cessna aircraft scheduled for delivery in the next three years.