There are plenty of discount fuel and services programs available to business jet operators, but Melodi Gerber, part-owner of Arizona charter operator Jet Team, didn’t like the services offered by contract fuelers. “I thought that working with contract fuelers was difficult,” she said. And most are focused on Part 91 operators, not charter providers, she added.
So Gerber launched a new company, Stratosphere Fuel Consortium, to bring the benefits and savings of discount fuel and handling services to charter companies. Strat Fuel focuses on charter operators, and Gerber emphasizes that the company is not trying to compete with other contract fuel companies. “It’s all about making life easier and better for Part 135 operators,” she explained.
Strat Fuel members pay for fuel at the discounted rate provided by participating FBOs. “We’re transparent,” she said. “If the FBO charges $4 per gallon, that’s what the member pays.”
Charter companies pay $1,200 a year to join Strat Fuel, and in addition to fuel discounts, members receive lower costs for international handling and ground transport through partners such as AMSCorp, Kilimanjaro Air and Global Ground Transport Services. There were 70 FBOs participating in the Strat Fuel program by late last month, covering most of the U.S. as well as four FBOs in Africa. Gerber expects that number to grow to about 150 by the end of the year. If a member wants an FBO to participate in Strat Fuel, Gerber or a team member will call the FBO and explain the benefits of participating. By joining the Strat Fuel network, she explained, FBOs save money by not having to market their services to Strat Fuel members, who can get the fuel discounts only by purchasing from participating FBOs.
Strat Fuel doesn’t invite Part 91 operators to join the Stratosphere Fuel Consortium, and if a corporate operator calls, Gerber usually recommends other discount services such as the Corporate Aircraft Association. However, Strat Fuel will allow Part 91 operators to join, but “we target the Part 135s,” she said. “Part 91 operators that come to us don’t really use us for fuel; they use Strat Fuel for international handling services.”