European charter operator expands fleet of turboprops

 - October 27, 2008, 12:24 PM
Despite its name, Luxembourg-based Jetfly is a fractional ownership aircraft program that uses single-engine turboprops exclusively. This year it has continued
to update its Socata TBM 700s with the newest TBM 850s and increased the number of Pilatus PC-12s in its fleet. And next month–for the first time–it will take delivery of a multi-engine airplane, a Piaggio Avanti II. CEO Jean-Marc Sassetti told AIN that the company’s future will continue through “controlled growth and providing good service to its clients.”

Jacques Lemaigre Du Breuil, Jetfly’s co-founder and more visible president, was replaced as CEO in April by Sassetti, who had been more a behind-the-scenes player until then. “A majority of shareholders was in disagreement with the previous CEO regarding management policy and strategy for the company,” Sassetti said. The management team is “in a position today to confirm the good financial health of the company and its full operational capacity.” Lemaigre Du Breuil remains one of the company’s 15 equal shareholders.

Jetfly is headquartered in Geneva and operates its fleet of 13 turboprop singles from Luxembourg. The fleet consists of two Socata TBM 700s, three TBM 850s and eight Pilatus PC-12s. Another PC-12 and Jetfly’s first Piaggio Avanti II will join the fleet by year-end. According to Sassetti, next year the company will take delivery of three PC-12s, two Piaggios and one or two TBM 850s, increasing the fleet to 19 or 20 aircraft depending on whether the 850 replaces a 700 or adds to the portfolio.

Sassetti said the PC-12’s entry into the fleet does not mean the end of its TBMs, as the more spacious aircraft is for a different type of customer. “We chose the Pilatus– the VIP Jeep of the air that can go anywhere– because apart from the Socata, there was no other [suitable] single-engine turboprop on the market.” Jetfly, he confirmed, will continue to operate the latest generation of all three business turboprops as they offer “jet-like efficiency at less than half the price of a jet and can access more than 2,200 European airports–three times the number available for jet operations.”

He expects to order more Pilatus turboprops and is thinking about other aircraft, “probably Socatas,” for 2010. Sassetti expressed interest in Socata’s reported consideration of a twin-engine turbine aircraft following its current merger process with Daher Aerospace but cautiously waits to see the possible aircraft’s definition.

At the beginning of September Jetfly was reporting that it had more than 90 share owners, up from 80 at the end of last year. Most are based in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands, with roughly an equal share of private individual and corporate co-owners. Fractional owners pay a fixed monthly management fee. For a one-eighth share of a 2008 TBM 850 (62.5 hours of flying time per year) owners pay ?6,500 ($9,250) per month. The cost for the same share in a Pilatus is ?6,820 ($10,230) and ?9,920 ($14,780) for the Piaggio. All contracts are for five years. The occupied hourly rate, including maintenance, engine reserve, fuel, Eurocontrol fees and taxes, is ?1,265 ($1,900) for a TBM 850, ?1,690 ($2,540) for a 2008 Pilatus and ?2,575 ($3,755) for a Piaggio.

Co-owners can request a second pilot, and same-day occupied hourly discounts are available for flights from Paris-Le Bourget or Geneva to most destinations in Western Europe. The guaranteed response time to use an aircraft is 24 hours for one-eighth co-owners and 12 hours for owners of quarter or half shares. According to Sassetti, prices are higher than those in the U.S., where fuel prices are traditionally lower than in Europe, but are in line with European prices. Apart from the first year of operations, Jetfly has recorded a profit every year, he said.

Single-engine IFR Operations
Some in the industry have questioned how Jetfly can operate single-engine aircraft for IFR operations in Europe under private rules rather than as a commercial operation. Under European Union law, a fractional ownership provider has to operate under commercial rules. According to Sassetti, Jetfly operates only for co-owners. “We do not have an air-taxi business or engage in public transport,” he said. “Jetfly is registered in Luxembourg, which accepts private licensing for the operator’s program. Jetfly holds a private license because we fly only for our co-owners and have no third-party customers, so a commercial license is not needed.”

Jetfly organizes flights for co-owners in their airplanes, maintains the airplanes and provides a pilot. If the owner’s aircraft is not available, a separate management contract enables co-owners to be carried in all the fleet’s airplanes. If a co-owner takes friends, family or business associates in a Jetfly aircraft, they travel free, not as paying travelers. The co-owners are insured and are responsible for them, just as in an automobile.”