EBACE Convention News

Zurich start-up is just Phenom(enal)

 - November 28, 2006, 9:54 AM

Embraer’s European unveiling of its Phenom 100 very light and 300 light jet full-scale cabin mockups here yesterday provided a platform for the Phenom’s fleet launch customer, start-up charter operator JetBird of Zurich, to announce the launch of its low-cost service.

JetBird has placed a firm order for 50 Phenom 100s and holds options for 50 more, with delivery planned over a five-year period. All 100 may be converted to Phenom 300s if JetBird so wishes. Total value of the order, assuming an all-Phenom 100 fleet and all options are converted, would be about $280 million. Embraer quotes the Phenom 100 list price as $2.75 million (2005 $) with FAA certification and $2.825 million withEASA certification. The Phenom 300’s price tag is $6.65 million (2005$) with FAA certification.

JetBird expects to begin operations with Phenom 100s in April 2009, using either Zurich or Geneva as its first operational hub. According to Domhnal Slattery, who is also chairman and managing partner of Claret Capital, a Dublin-based private investment company, the JetBird business model hinges on the Phenom jets’ low acquisition and operating costs, which will make it possible to charge less than half the rates of existing on-demand charter operators.

Pricing will be on a fixed per-hour basis, with no charge for positioning of the aircraft (deadheading). The company plans to encourage Web-site booking, by offering a discount, and will also make use of a multi-hour jet card, a call center, negotiated block-hour options and charter brokers. Slattery expects JetBird will lead to a “paradigm shift in air travel, similar to that caused by the low-cost airline revolution.”

The company plans to take delivery of 20 aircraft every five years and to establish “mini-hubs” in several European cities with about 25 aircraft per hub. Based on his experience in aviation finance with RBS Capital, Slattery said he understands “why start-up airlines fail and how to avoid it.” He said JetBird’s current $45 million in financing will carry it through its first three years of operation.