Flight Options announced yesterday that it is adding the Cessna Citation X to its current stable of 10 aircraft models, with the first five aircraft becoming available on November 1.
Although the Citation X will be the third largest aircraft in the Flight Options fleet, chairman and CEO Kenn Ricci said that the second largest provider of fractional aircraft continues to pursue its market strategy of attracting new customers to fractional ownership.
That is best accomplished, he said, with smaller midsize to light business jets. Flight Options, which merged with Raytheon Travel Air earlier this year, operates the world’s largest fleets of the entry-level Beechjet 400A and the midsize Hawker 800XP.
Ricci said that Flight Options operates seven aircraft with price tags below $9 million, compared with one such aircraft offered by industry leader NetJets. Conversely, Flight Options has one aircraft model priced above $17 million, compared with seven for its chief rival.
The smallest share (one-sixteenth) in the Citation X program is priced at $937,500. Flight Options (Booth No. 2901) said the nearly 24-ft-long cabin would be configured to accommodate eight passengers in double-club seating. With a cruise speed of about 525 kt at up to 45,000 ft, the Citation X provides shareowners with excellent performance and an abundance of personal space, according to the company.
Ricci said that Flight Options expects to continue expansion of “products that provide value” to customers. It plans to add more Hawker 800XPs and Beechjet 400s, as well as the new Raytheon Premier, beginning in March 2003. He said nine of the aircraft are already sold.
Founded in 1998, Flight Options pioneered the concept of offering shares in previously owned jets. This allowed the company to present a cost savings of 35 percent on comparable programs offered by its competitors, opening private jet travel to a broader audience.
Ricci said the fractional ownership industry remains optimistic that general aviation is increasingly being looked at as a travel solution, particularly in light of increasing security, air traffic delays and the current state of the airline industry. He added that no-frills Southwest Airlines is becoming the industry model, and first-class travel could face extinction.
The future could be even brighter, Ricci said, as economics forces companies to turn to fractionals and perhaps promote traveling in a business jet as an employee benefit no longer limited to high-level executives.
He said that Flight Options’ redemption percentage–where owners either exit the program or redeem a share–is the lowest in the fractional industry. The net increase “has been relatively constant and not as cyclic as one might expect,” he said.
Ricci said Flight Options operates more than 205 aircraft with more than 1,900 shareowners, while long-range planning estimates that 497 aircraft will be in the Flight Options fleet by 2006.
According to Ricci, Flight Options has not decided what to do about its planned introduction of the Fairchild Dornier Envoy 7 into the fleet. Flight Options was to have been the launch customer for the business jet, with an order for 25 aircraft. The future of the program was thrown into doubt when Fairchild Dornier filed for bankruptcy.
Ricci expressed concern about the lack of fractional sales across the industry for large-cabin airplanes such as the Boeing Business Jet, Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream V.
“We have not designated a replacement airplane,” he said. “We are studying all of the options. There is still a chance of something emerging from the Envoy 7.”