Flexjet, Bombardier Aerospace’s fractional-share program, announced a reconfigured product offering at NBAA, with an emphasis on its ability to offer supplemental lift and other aviation solutions to corporate flight departments.
The fractional share marketplace is changing rapidly in response to the lengthy global recession. While most fractional operators already reduced staffing levels to match lower levels of customer activity, it wasn’t until September 11 that NetJets announced layoffs of 350 nonunion employees.
The recession has dealt an enormous blow to the fractional share industry. Rapidly declining used-aircraft prices and fewer flying hours have affected the industry to the point that most fractional operators have shrunk during the past year, deferred new aircraft deliveries, cut staffing and explored new ways to keep flying. Business has been so bad at the fractionals that some pundits are questioning whether the business model is broken.
The fractional jet industry is undergoing a “major transformation,” according to business aviation consultant Brian Foley Associates. “Regrettably there’ll be more turmoil in the charter, air taxi and fractional arenas before year-end,” said company president Brian Foley.
Jet Republic, which last year announced a plan to buy up to 110 Bombardier Learjet 60XRs and launch a fractional-share business in Europe, has suspended operations at its Portugal subsidiary. As a consequence, Bombardier “terminated its firm and conditional order purchase agreement with Jet Republic.” The company’s first Learjet 60XR was to have been delivered in October.
European fractional ownership provider Jet Republic is now trying to sell whole midsize business aircraft. Under its new Free to Fly program announced at the end of June, the company is offering Bombardier Learjet 60XRs for $13.5 million, at what it claims is a discount of more than $1 million off the full list price of $14.6 million.
Portugal-based private air services start-up Jet Republic joined Bombardier Aerospace’s carbon offset program for its initial fleet of 25 Learjet 60XRs, set to be delivered over the next two years, starting in October. Jet Republic could eventually take delivery of up to 110 Learjet 60XRs if it exercises all its options.
VistaJet is slowing the implementation of its ambitious growth plans in the charter market but insists that its ambition to solidify its position as the number two service provider outside North America still stands. This year the company will take delivery of less than half of the 12 to 14 new aircraft it had been due to take, and it has adjusted its target of having a 100-strong fleet of jets by 2012 operating some 80,000 flight hours.
New European fractional ownership provider Jet Republic says it is capitalizing on the downturn in both air transport and business aviation. The company, which in September is due to take delivery of the first of up to 110 Bombardier Learjet 60XRs for which it has orders and options, said it is receiving more inquiries than it had anticipated from people who previously owned their own aircraft.
Fractional aircraft providers have reshaped their marketing efforts to address the difficulty of trying to get customers to buy aircraft shares during a recession. To help stimulate growth, Flexjet has introduced a fly-away lease program, which lets buyers who might not want to make a capital purchase lease a fractional share and exit the lease at any time with 90 days’ notice and with no penalty.