EBACE Convention News

PrivatAir’s jet card practically selling itself

 - May 22, 2007, 7:44 AM

PrivatAir has taken $10 million in deposits for its Select jet card, which enables customers to pre-buy blocks of flight hours. “There has been a strong drive on the Select card,” PrivatAir chief executive Greg Thomas said here on Monday. “We believe it’s the perfect product for Europe and we think the rest of this year will show some very interesting developments in that field. We have been through two renewal cycles without spending any money on marketing, and we’ve used it as a pilot program to understand how to manage dead heads and other issues.”

Richard Koe, vice president for charter and aircraft management, said that compared with ad hoc charter, the advantage of the jet card approach to private air travel is the greater convenience it offers. “It costs a bit more, but there are a lot of new entrants, and if you find an operator with the right product it can actually be more economical than ad hoc,” he said.

Ad hoc customers charter an aircraft how and when they want it. “They need an operator with the right jet or somebody who can put them in touch with one who has,” Koe said. “They get flexibility and there is no investment, but it requires them to organize a trip every time.” PrivatAir’s fleet ranges from turboprops to Boeing Business Jets, and it has partners it knows and trusts, who can broaden the choice further.

Fractional ownership, Koe said, can offer savings over ad hoc charter rates for heavy users, but have a potential downside in terms of capital cost and depreciation. “We think they have reached the end of their usefulness, and PrivatAir doesn’t do them.”
Private aircraft ownership provides guaranteed availability and can offer saving. He said the disadvantages are that it ties the customer to one aircraft and carries liabilities such as depreciation. It is a key part of the PrivatAir operation.

For the future, Koe said, new aircraft with much lower operating costs will spur much greater use of private aircraft, “but there is also a trend toward large cabin, long-range aircraft.”

So would PrivatAir be interested in managing a VLJ fleet? “We would look at it if we were asked,” Thomas said. “VLJs are a very interesting development, particularly in terms of their commercial appeal. There are perfectly good twin turboprops that could do the same thing 10 years ago, but the VLJs are jets, which is great, and it’s good to see a flying Eclipse here.

“Embraer’s Phenom is also very interesting since it has a commercial manufacturer’s pedigree behind it. So I wouldn’t rule us out. But I wouldn’t rule out an A380 either.”