gt0505 cabin class - ElleJet Aviation Services

ellejet.com

gt0505 cabin class - ElleJet Aviation Services

Flights

of Fancy

Private jet travel is becoming

more accessible and sometimes

even more affordable. By Mary Hunt

www.globaltravelerusa.com June 2007 | Global Traveler | 33


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PRIVATE JETS ARE THE PINNACLE OF THE TRANSPORTATION EXPERIENCE.

Not only do they have cachet as the preferred form of travel among the

very rich, but they also bestow practical rewards upon those who fly

private for more pragmatic reasons: avoiding airport congestion, the

convenience of using local airports, flexible scheduling, and levels of

levels of comfort and service that can leave even first class in the dust.

And as increasingly creative initiatives bring private jet travel to a

wider audience, you no longer have to own a jet, or even charter one,

to travel as if you did. Today, there’s an active marketplace not only in

jet shares but also in prepaid flight hours, and the Internet is giving

individuals access to empty legs and last-minute deals, at prices that —

while not entirely comparable with airline fares — do make the choice

more economically viable.

“People can’t justify it when the choice is $30,000 [for a charter]

versus $200 [for an airline seat]. But when it’s $3,000 vs. $1,000, it’s a

different ballgame,” said ElleJet’s vice president of operations, Ben

Schusterman. ElleJet is one of the

newest breed of companies using the

Internet to track and offer available

trips on private jets.

PRIVATE CHOICES

In 1986, a company named Executive

Jet (now called NetJets) came up with

the notion that people who didn’t need

a whole jet might like to own part of

one — and the concept of fractional

ownership was born. Instead of paying

between $4 million and $40 million

for a private jet, you can pay as little as

$200,000 for a 1/16th share that entitles

you to 50 flying hours a year on a

particular aircraft — and the price

includes as many passengers as the jet

can carry. (At NetJets, the starting

share cost is just over $400,000 for a

1/16th interest in a Hawker 400XP, a

7-to-9-seat light jet.)

The idea caught on with both businesses

and very-frequent individual flyers,

leading other companies — including

aircraft manufacturers such as

Bombardier (maker of Learjets) — to

offer fractional ownership programs.

Given the popularity of fractional ownership

within a limited market, it was a

natural progression for businesses to

develop programs for less frequent

usage. For every one buyer of a fractional

share, research showed three to

four more who would be interested in a

plan that let them travel less frequently.

Fractional cards are one version of

lower-volume programs. Instead of

representing a share in a particular

plane, a fractional card works like a

prepaid debit card. You buy the right

to fly a certain number of hours a year

(typically between 25 and 50 hours) on

any jets available within the particular

fractional-ownership company’s fleet.

For example, with a Bombardier

SkyJet card, you choose the category of

jet — light, super-light, midsize, large,

or ultra-long-range — and a membership

level — 25, 50, 100 or more hours.

A 25-hour card for a light jet membership

costs $94,000. (If you need to

trade up or down for a particular trip,

hours used are pro-rated accordingly.)

For a Learjet, prices start at $101,000

for 25 hours. CitationJet’s Vector card

34 | Global Traveler | June 2007 www.globaltravelerusa.com


starts at $96,000 for 20 hours in any of

three jets. NetJets’ Marquis Jet Card

starts at $119,900 for 25 hours in a

Citation V Ultra.

CHARTERS AND CLUBS

On-demand charters have always been

the primary alternative to jet ownership:

You arrange with a charter operator or

broker to use their aircraft to go wherever

you want to go, whenever you want

to go, and usually you must commit for

a round-trip flight, including whatever

costs are incurred for the time you’re on

the ground at your destination.

Now you can buy charter cards that

work like fractional cards. The idea is

essentially the same, except the fleet of

aircraft available to you is that of the

charter operator. Massachusetts-based

Sentient Jet, which recently merged

with Pennsylvania-based JetDirect, has

several levels of travel cards starting at

$100,000. The rate, determined by

membership level, establishes a bank of

pre-paid hours that are deducted as

they are used. OneSky’s Latitude membership

program also starts at

$100,000 with set hourly rates, while

its under-15-hour program requires no

upfront cash commitment.

Some charter-flight programs take

the form of membership clubs. The

Avion Private Jet Club costs $20,000

per person to join, plus $10,000 annual

dues. That entitles you to a flat rate

of $7,000 each way on one of the company’s

eight Challenger and Gulfstream

jets. Rates are discounted for couples

and larger groups.

CASTING A WIDER NET

The one thing that has traditionally kept

the cost of private-jet use particularly

high is the issue of empty legs, or deadheading.

Originally, charter operators

based all fares on round-trip prices

because the alternative was to have an

empty aircraft return to home base. Plus,

corporate and private jets typically spend

a lot of time waiting, or on repositioning

flights to get them where they’re needed

next. (Business Week recently reported

that more than 40 percent of private jets

are flying empty at any given time.)

Today, the ability to coordinate flight

requests across larger databases, and to

provide public access to unsold inventory,

has helped create a more affordable

one-way jet travel market.

Operators are also applying Internet-

International Access

Fractional ownership and card programs are available in other parts of the

world, particularly Europe, but genuinely international usage is rare. That’s

because only the most expensive category of heavy private jets can handle an

intercontinental flight.

“The charter industry here [in the United States] is mostly domestic,” said

Schusterman. “Heavy jets are already expensive; reaching far isn’t as much in

demand because the economics [of charter vs. scheduled airline] are weaker.”

Instead, travelers who desire private flying on multiple continents tend to

join more than one program, such as Jet International’s rent-by-the-hour plan

that starts at $6,350 an hour in Europe for a jet that will seat up to seven people.

based approaches to the excess-inventory

issue. Jets.com, Jet International’s

Web site, offers an online auction model;

input where and when you want to go,

and operators bid for your itinerary.

OneSky uses a search-engine approach

to trawl for the least expensive available

charters that go where you want to go,

or for upgrades that match the cost of

less deluxe jets.

Various operators take a page from

the commercial airlines’ books, offering

special online listings of lastminute

deals. Sentient’s recent lastminute

listings included a $3,125 light

jet from Washington (IAD) to

Farmingdale (FRG), N.Y. and a

$4,400 flight from Teterboro, N.J.

(TEB) to Toronto (CYYZ).

Emulating the success of search

aggregators is ElleJet. The company,

which lists empty-leg availability for

charter, corporate, fractionally owned

and private jets, has been aggressively

promoting its online booking service to

operators and owners around the country;

inventory averages between 300

and 400 empty-leg listings each day.

Travelers can subscribe to email alerts

that notify them when empty legs are

available from their local airports, or

search routes they need to fly.

FINDING WHAT WORKS

Figuring out what type of private-jet

access works best for you requires some

research. Start by getting an idea of charter

rates for the routes you most commonly

fly, then tally the number of hours

you would use a private jet service.

If anticipated travel hours add up to

25 or more, look into card programs

and compare their hourly rates. Don’t

forget to compare by aircraft size — if

you frequently travel with a group, the

best way to compare prices is on a perperson

basis. Also note that some card

programs allow you to roll over unused

hours, while others expire at year’s end.

If you’re unlikely to use a private jet

enough to warrant buying a fractional

ownership or joining a membership plan,

keep track of services that offer empty-leg

and last-minute trips, or that will solicit

bids for your business. And if you’re

motivated by luxury as well as convenience,

most Web sites will either show or

link you to images of the various jet cabins;

some even offer video tours.

Make the Connection

Avion Private Jet Club

tel 310 281 4888

www.flyavion.com

Bombardier

tel 888 2SKYJET

www.skyjet.com

CitationShares

tel 877 832 8678

www.citationshares.com

ElleJet

tel 800 ELLEJET

www.ellejet.com

Jet International

tel 800 370 7719

www.jets.com

NetJets

tel 877 356 5823

www.netjets.com

OneSky

tel 866 663 7591

www.onesky.com

Sentient Jet

tel 800 760 4908

www.sentient.com

www.globaltravelerusa.com June 2007 | Global Traveler | 35

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