EBACE Convention News

Air Partner’s JetCard to challenge NetJets Europe

 - November 28, 2006, 7:07 AM

Charter broker Air Partner will this summer relaunch its Jet Membership block charter program under the new name JetCard. The new offering will promise maximum flexibility with customers free to opt for a full, no-quibble refund on flight hours bought at any time.

Air Partner chief executive David Savile said that JetCard rates will be slightly lower than equivalent packages under the NetJets Europe fractional ownership program and its associated charter card options. “We Europeans shouldn’t let NetJets walk all over our market,” he told EBACE Convention News. “It is time the charter industry here offered a real alternative [to fractional ownership].”

Having said that, Savile gave NetJets full credit for attracting “possibly a thousand or more people who would not have previously used private aircraft.” He said that European charter firms have generally been ineffectual at marketing themselves to new customers.

New Benefits

Air Partner has appointed Jonathan Breeze as managing director of its new JetCard division. The former Falcon 900 business jet captain has come directly from NetJets Europe, where he served as commercial director.

The UK-based group is now considering which aspects of Jet Membership to change, after quietly launching this program 18 months ago. It has said that aircraft availability will be guaranteed even during peak travel periods.

The existing program offers blocks of 25, 50 and 75 hours in a variety of aircraft, including the Cessna Citation CJ1, Bravo and Excel, operated by approved European charter firms. For example, 25 hours in a light jet is currently priced at e112,500, rising to e159,000 for a midsize jet and e254,000 for a large-cabin aircraft.

Savile argued that fractional ownership programs in Europe have failed to win over significant volumes of corporate business and so have turned instead to signing up wealthy individuals to use their aircraft largely for leisure travel. “However, and it’s a big ‘however,’ while the fractionals have grown that market they have not done so profitably,” he insisted. “Creating these schemes and finding demand for them required huge capital investment, disproportionate ongoing operating costs and, on the evidence to date, not only have they failed to reach break-even, but also they seem to be increasing their losses with more sales.”

Back in January, Air Partner opened a new flight planning and support division called Flight-Operations.com. The public company claims to be the world’s largest charter broker.