Block charter has evolved as the primary alternative to fractional ownership in Europe, with providers continuously vying to offer greater flexibility and value. Operators and brokers are now competing to find new incentives to influence customers to abandon airlines in favor of charter services.
Two well known companies that operate and manage charter aircraft and jet travel cards have merged. As reported in AIN last month (page 3), Berwyn, Pa.-based JetDirect has acquired Weymouth, Mass.-based Sentient Jet.
One year after CitationShares introduced its Vector jet card, the fractional provider has curtailed sales to “not exceed the capacity to fulfill” charter and owner flights. “We have reached the capacity we targeted way earlier than expected,” according to CitationShares president and CEO Steve O’Neill. “We expected a renewal rate of about 35 percent, but about 75 percent of cardholders are renewing.
Business aviation continues to be a bright spot in the FAA’s annual aviation forecast, with top executives of two business jet manufacturers and the leading fractional ownership provider presenting generally upbeat assessments at the agency’s Aviation Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C., in late March.
Bookajet International, the UK executive charter operator that rose from the ashes of bankrupt Chauffair, is now hiring pilots, mechanics, sales and support staff as it seeks to expand its business from a new base at Southampton Airport. Last month the company relocated from Farnborough Airport into the former Signature Aircraft Engineering facility at the south coast of England airport.
Those who operate N-registered business aircraft in Europe know how well off we are in the U.S. Aside from a multitude of flight information regions under the jurisdiction of different countries, Eurocontrol charges and airport restrictions, there is simply a different attitude toward business aviation in Europe compared with the U.S.
Profits soared last year at Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, though not all of the company’s divisions did well. In his annual letter to shareholders released last month, the investment mogul summarized the reduced performance of FlightSafety International and NetJets– the two largest companies in their respective fields of simulator training and fractional ownership.
When business aviation is booming, as it is now, nowhere is it more evident than at FBOs, the place at airports where everybody ends up hanging out, working, planning, preparing, departing and arriving. FBOs are also the place where most people are introduced to non-airline aviation.
While 2003 general aviation shipping and billing numbers are hardly cause for celebration, the CEOs of GA manufacturers are generally upbeat and optimistic that a turnaround has been reached. And even though 2003 was a “challenging year,” it still ranks as the fifth best year for billings in GA’s history.
When the ICAO Assembly meets in Montreal late this month, the International Business Aircraft Council (IBAC) will propose standardization of international regulations governing fractional ownership operations. At present, the U.S.