Avantair Flying High in Face of Recession

 - July 7, 2009, 12:02 PM

As the larger fractional ownership operations lay off employees and/or reduce aircraft delivery rates, Clearwater, Fla.-based Avantair is watching its fleet of 53 Avantis and Avanti IIs grow as quickly as Italian manufacturer Piaggio can deliver them, with six more due before year-end. CEO Steven Santo attributes the growth to economic conditions and the operating economics of the twin-turboprop Avanti, which has a cabin equivalent to that of a midsize business jet, a max cruise speed of more than 400 knots and low fuel burn. “Economic conditions are kind of forcing people to look for better alternatives in private aircraft travel and they’re finding us,” Santo said. Approximately 80 percent of those flocking to Avantair are coming from other jet-aircraft fractional programs, he added. The company’s revenue in the first quarter was up 15.7 percent. To entice even more converts, Avantair recently introduced the Axis Club Membership, under which members can fly for as low as $2,867 per hour. “This is based on a special program we are running where you receive five bonus hours for each flight block you purchase up front,” a company spokeswoman told AIN.