Fractional provider Flexjet is aiming to capture a bigger share of the high-end market with a new level of service it is branding as Red Label. Details of the service will be formally announced at this year’s NBAA annual convention in Las Vegas; however, Chris Bero, Flexjet vice president of global marketing, shared Red Label’s basic elements with AIN.
Kenn Ricci, chairman of Flexjet parent company Directional Aviation Capital (DAC) and a founder of fractional firm Flight Options, began developing the Red Label concept several years ago, according to Bero. When DAC acquired Flexjet in 2013, Ricci saw it as an opportunity to “bring fractional ownership to the next level,” said Bero. That meant a war on what Bero refers to as “greige,” the hybrid term for not only the interchangeable conservative gray/beige colors that historically have dominated fractional jet interiors but in a larger sense the term for what he characterizes as the ordinary level of service permeating the industry.
Borrowing from the luxury hotel industry and with help from aircraft OEMs and sister company Constant Aviation, Flexjet began developing a new series of aircraft interiors with greater passenger comfort, bolder colors and textures and closer attention to craftsmanship and detail. This became the foundation for Flexjet’s LXi-series Learjet 75s, Challenger 350s and G450s. Flexjet envisions three to four different premium interior designs per aircraft type. “It starts with the aircraft first. You will need to be a member of the Red Label program to fly on these select aircraft,” Bero explained.
But putting snazzier interiors in newer airplanes is only one aspect of the program. “Red Label has four main attributes,” Bero said. The first is “artisan interiors.” The second is dedicated crew assigned to a particular aircraft. “That will offer the maximum experience to owners flying on that aircraft. Those pilots will know that aircraft like the backs of their hands, they are comfortable with it, they know how it performs, and they are able to serve the owners and their guests on that aircraft specifically,” he said. “The third aspect is offering aircraft that are no more than five years old and in many cases younger.” The company–with 85 aircraft in its fleet now–will be taking delivery of 31 new aircraft this year and plans to expand the fleet by at least 50 percent over the next three years. There will be a maximum of 10 owners per aircraft. Finally, the company will guarantee a limited amount of use on the aircraft. “We are not running these things into the ground. We will be using them to the benefit of our fractional owners and not using them for charter or to carry jet-card customers,” he said.
Bero said Red Label also will offer customers access to exclusive entertainment events, VIP lounges and upscale ground transportation with an option for armed guards–“some of them ex-Navy Seals”–said Bero. Onboard catering will have a local flavor, with menu items such as deep-dish pizza in Chicago or a lobster sandwich in Boston. Libations will include special Red Label cocktails. Flexjet is looking at branded FBOs at specific locations with special Red Label lounges. The first one is slated to open at the end of the year in Naples, Fla., to be followed by others at Scottsdale, Ariz., Teterboro, N.J., and Van Nuys, Calif.
The company’s goal with the service is “to tap into the emotional side of jet travel. It’s not just a business tool; it’s what a private aircraft represents. We don’t want to be [the shared car ride service] Uber. Especially when you are sitting in the cabin of a business jet for six to seven hours on international flights, you want the best of the best,” Bero said.
Pricing for Red Label has not yet been established but will vary with the type of aircraft selected. Bero said Flexjet aims to convert at least 25 percent of its customers to Red Label within one year of rolling out the service. “We’re not looking to market on price,” he said. “We’re looking at the luxury component that owners at the top of the fractional chain really want. We know customers will pay more for Red Label. They are looking for differentiation within the fractional space. Given today’s great charter rates, we know we have to plus up [fractional ownership] to remain competitive and to stand out in the marketplace. We’ve taken a whole new approach. It’s really a two-horse race [with competitor NetJets]. We’re ready for it.”