Taking a quasi-Southwest Airlines approach, Cleveland-based fractional provider Flight Options last month announced a “go-forward” plan to rationalize its fleet over the next three to five years with the goal of simplifying operations, increasing fleet reliability and reducing overall costs. The move is a big gamble, however, since roughly half of the company’s shareowners are up for renewal in the next 18 months.
Charter and Fractional » Fractional
News and issues concerning the fractional-ownership industry and markets, including company announcements, regulations, new developments and labor issues.
On October 29, more than four out of every five of the unionized pilots at fractional provider NetJets voted to reject a tentative agreement (TA) reached in late August (see AIN November, page 4), sending a strong message to their now former master executive council (MEC) members, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 284 and the company itself.
In a business world where a niche market may be the key to success, PlaneSense has apparently found both niche and success, operating a fractional ownership fleet composed solely of PC-12 turboprop singles and serving the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.
NetJets Europe (NJE) sold shares in 18 complete aircraft last year, representing an 80-percent increase in sales over 2003. By the end of last year the European fractional ownership program’s fleet consisted of 58 aircraft. That number is set to grow to 91, with 33 deliveries scheduled for this year.
Bombardier has launched Skyjet International as a global network of fixed-rate executive charter services spanning North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Customers who want to fly in or among any of these regions can opt for block-charter terms through the Canadian manufacturer’s existing Jet Membership card or take advantage of the ad hoc rates the manufacturer previously offered under the Skyjet name in the U.S.
Atlanta-based aviation placement company AIR projects that the four major fractional aircraft ownership companies will hire at least 1,000 pilots this year, more than double the 482 hired last year, but fewer than the record 1,363 hired in 2000. The last year in which the fractionals hired more than 1,000 pilots was 2001, according to AIR. NetJets, the largest fractional operator, is expected to hire more than a third of the projected total.
Bolstered by the introduction of the Challenger 300 and Learjet 40, Dallas-based fractional aircraft ownership operator Flexjet said it saw a 32-percent increase in the sale of shares last year compared with the year before.
In the single largest training agreement in its history, Dallas-based CAE SimuFlite will soon start training all 900-plus pilots of Flight Options, the second-largest fractional aircraft ownership operation in the world. The exclusive three-year agreement, with an option for two more years, is valued at about $28 million and is effective starting this month.
With the exception of Bombardier Flexjet, 13 major and minor players in the fractional industry continued their growth cycle last year, according to Wichita-based AvData. Total net shares last year surged past 6,200, up 6.7 percent from 2002. During the same period, the fractional turbine fleet grew 6.1 percent–to more than 800 aircraft.
A May 11 trial date has been set for the start of a lawsuit in which four former Flight Options pilots allege they were fired because of their union-organizing activities before the company merged with Raytheon Travel Air. However, a settlement could come sooner. The case is scheduled to go before a mediator early this month. The pilots filed the lawsuit in late 2002.