EBACE Convention News

Flying Group introduces jet-card option for the not-so-frequent flier

 - May 10, 2007, 6:38 AM

“Not everyone can or wants to own a private jet, and even the most affordable co-ownership or ad hoc chartering package is not always suitable,” Flying Group president and general manager Bernard Van Milders told EBACE Convention News. “With our new FlyingCard program [introduced in January], anyone can move around Europe in a quick, safe, efficient and personalized manner on a business jet, at a fixed and advantageous rate.”

The jet card is tailored to the needs of those flying up to 100 hours per year, explained Johan Van Lokeren, CEO of Flying Group’s operations division, which is called Flying Service. The division tested the card for three months before its actual launch.

The FlyingCard promises a wide range of complementary advantages, Van Lokeren said. Some of those benefits include: clear-cut budgeting, expenses can be fully calculated in advance; customers pay only for occupied flight hours (positioning flights are not charged for destinations in western Europe); availability of aircraft is guaranteed; customers receive preferential charter rates without a long-term commitment; and passengers encounter no additional hidden charges in the event of cost increases.

The agreed-upon price in the contract is fixed and valid for a 12-month period. At the end of the contract period, Flying Group will reassess the customers’ actual requirements and, if necessary, may advise them to switch to some other program, for example, full or fractional ownership.

FlyingCard is based on a fixed payment of ?140,000 ($186,000) for 20 flight hours in a Cessna Citation Excel (or 28 hours in a smaller Citation Bravo). Clients can upgrade or downgrade within Flying Group’s available fleet, paying on a pro rata basis.

Because the new block charter program has achieved early success, it has been incorporated as a subsidiary of Flying Group–the fourth pillar of the company’s
activities, along with aircraft management, fractional ownership and ad hoc charter services.

Since establishing its home base at Antwerp Airport in 1997, Flying Group has expanded its operation from two to 15 aircraft. Its fleet consists of a mix of types from Cessna (Citation I, Bravo, Excel and Citation X) and Dassault (Falcon 900C, 900DX and 900EX EASy). At last October’s NBAA convention in Orlando, Florida, the group ordered three Citation Mustang very light jets and three Citation XLS+s, and committed to a pair of Cessna’s proposed new Citation LCC (large cabin concept) designs.

The company recently opened a new ?850,000 ($1.1 million), 19,000-sq-ft hangar at Antwerp, doubling the size of its headquarters and enabling it to accommodate the three new Dassault Falcon 7Xs to be delivered next year.

Flying Group expects to take delivery of three additional aircraft this year: one Falcon 2000EX EASy and a pair of Citation CJ3s. The Falcon will be chartered at an hourly price of ?5,500 ($7,300) and the CJ3 for ?2800 ($3,700).

International Expansion
Flying Group has also expanded internationally. In Rotterdam, it operates two aircraft–a Bombardier Challenger 604 and a Citation Excel for Dutch customers.
It boasts a growing presence in France, with two bases–one in Cannes and the other in Paris–and is building a ?2.5 million ($3.3 million) hangar at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport on the French Riviera. The new facility (hangar and offices) is scheduled to open in September. Flying Group now has a dozen employees in France.

The Antwerp-based operator also began construction of a ?4 million ($5.3 million) hangar at Paris Le Bourget this year. Following its appearance here at EBACE’07 (Booth No. 136), Flying Group will attend next month’s Paris Air Show, where it is expected to reveal more details about its partnership with U.S. chain Million Air in this Le Bourget FBO. The 57,000-sq-ft building is located close to the Dassault Falcon Service FBO and the FlightSafety International training center. The launch is taking longer than initially expected but the new facility is expected to be operational later this year.

Because Flying Group’s president Van Milders also flies as captain on its Citation X and is away for a week or more on long trips, Van Lokeren has replaced him as CEO of the Flying Services division.

Flying Group’s staff in Belgium totals about 70, including 30 pilots, many of whom were hired under permanent contracts after having been self-employed. According to Flying Group spokesman Ben Paindavin, the company has had to offer them permanent status to counter competition from other major operators, such as NetJets Europe.