NBAA Convention News

France's Unijet turns to Cessna for small jet to meet its charter needs

 - June 30, 2008, 6:51 AM

Dassault Aviation’s unwillingness to develop a new light business jet to replace the Falcon 10 and 20 models is starting to cost it business. European executive charter firms, in particular, are increasingly looking to add smaller, more affordable models to their fleets in a bid to attract new business aviation users.

French charter operator Unijet will further expand its Paris Le Bourget-based fleet next year when it takes delivery of a pair of Cessna Citation CJ2 jets in June and November. Having been exclusively a Dassault Falcon operator throughout its 35-year history, Unijet turned to the U.S. manufacturer after failing to persuade Dassault to offer a new small-cabin corporate jet.

“Dassault now has no entry-level aircraft,” Unijet CEO Dannys Famin told NBAA Convention News. “I tried for at least three years to promote the idea of a refurbishment of the Falcon 10, but for this we would need Falcon 20 avionics and Dassault just wasn’t interested. This is sad because I had always been proud to be a single-product operator.”

Nonetheless, Unijet certainly hasn’t deserted Dassault and in August took delivery of its second new Falcon 900EX model, which joined a Falcon 50 and a pair of Falcon 10s. It is adding a second Falcon 50 and is understood to be a prospective customer for the new Falcon 7X type. The company also intends to add a Falcon 2000 to the fleet.

Unijet is primarily a long-range operator but it wants the CJ2s to offer equipment better suited to all executive missions–both intra- and intercontinental. “We believe that the people who fly the Citations one day could also fly the Falcon 900 another day,” stated Famin.

It was with the long-range market in mind that Unijet has just opened a U.S. office at New Canaan, Conn., to serve as a reservations center for U.S. clients who can now pay for European flights in their own currency and talk to agents who better understand their needs and expectations. It will also act as a charter broker for U.S. clients needing flights in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

This year has also seen the company simplifying its name to Unijet, having traded as Leadair-Unijet since its merger with Leadair Jet Services. Famin said the change was made quite simply because the full name had proved too much of a mouthful for staff and customers with different mother tongues. Unijet was founded in 1967.