Private aviation has seen its strongest year in a decade. While the growth has been driven by a strengthening economy and record stock markets, the leading private-aviation firms have also continued to gain market share by using new technologies, value-focused programs and exclusive partnerships to distinguish themselves from competitors.
Sentient Jet’s “asset-light” business model continues to attract clients who prefer the lower entry costs of its Jet Card to aircraft ownership. Its new app has helped drive growth, with a third of its cardholders using it to compare aircraft, book flights and control accounts. Partnerships with the Kentucky Derby, Sotheby’s and others have become integral, value-added components to its program.
Flexjet’s international expansion and Red Label program have been drivers of its growth. Its new UK base allows clients to fly transatlantic on a Flexjet ultralong-range jet and transfer to another Flexjet aircraft for travel inside Europe. The Red Label program, which includes customized aircraft and dedicated flight crews, has been highly successful. Nearly 40 percent of Flexjet fractional owners have enrolled in Red Label.
Wheels Up is a prime example of the “democratic” shift that has taken place in business aviation. By reducing the cost of private air travel, the company has transitioned in four years from a startup into a membership-based program with 4,500 clients.
Jet Aviation has introduced technologies that make its aircraft management much more efficient for clients. Its new FBO app lets clients communicate with its FBOs, prefill landing forms and accomplish other tasks that would have required an intermediary. The wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics continues to add FBOs to its global network.
Delta Private Jets’ 70 WiFi-enabled aircraft and flexible, transparent programs continue to grow the 30-year-old business. Its connection with parent Delta Air Lines also offers seamless travel between private and commercial flights, while providing unique benefits.
Zetta Jet’s “floating fleet” concept continues to be a gamechanger. Its 18 ultralong-range business jets have no fixed base, so clients pay point-to-point prices, without repositioning fees. Zetta Jet’s white-glove approach to service and travel has also fueled its growth in the last three years.
Tailor-made programs are making business aviation attractive—and accessible—to an ever-wider range of private fliers.
Driven by new technology and member benefits, the original jet card continues its trajectory of double-digit growth.
The Sentient Jet Card created a quiet revolution in private aviation after it was launched in 1999. Being able to book a business jet with only 10 hours’ notice, minus any complicated contracts or asset purchases, was a draw for individuals and corporate leaders who loved the simplicity of a debit card transaction. Sentient was also insightful enough to build its business around safety, designing multilevel safety protocols into every flight while limiting its network to only the country’s most elite charter operators.
Nearly two decades later, Sentient’s business model continues to grow at an impressive pace. “Many of our 6,000 Cardholders recognized early on that we are a sound choice for anyone who wants to fly privately,” says Andrew Collins, Sentient Jet’s president and CEO. “Our retention rates remain very high as we continue to attract new customers, both from other programs and newcomers to private aviation. They appreciate a program that’s predictable, transparent and extremely flexible.”
The growth has also come through a conscious evolution of benefits and technologies that cater to an ever-changing clientele. Just a year after its launch, the Sentient Jet app is being used by a quarter of Sentient’s Cardholders. “Clients enjoy real-time quoting and booking flights with the app without ever having to call us,” says Collins. “We’re now booking millions of dollars of flight hours with this seamless, efficient process.” The app has had some unintended consequences. Many clients, now able to see the configurations of aircraft options on their phones, tend to upgrade to larger aircraft that are more mission appropriate.
“Between this new technology and our app, our service levels have made a dynamic leap in the last year.”
Sentient has also invested heavily in technology that allows its flight partners to work on an electronic “paperless” track when organizing flights. “These workflow tools make operations more efficient for both sides,” says Collins. “Between this new technology and our app, our service levels have made a dynamic leap in the last year.”
The technical upgrades in customer service have not come at the expense of the human component of the business. “No matter how much technology we bring into the equation, we’re constantly looking at how we can optimize our Cardholders’ flight experiences,” says Collins. “You’re a client of ours, not a transaction. We show that whenever we can, whether it’s celebrating a birthday or anniversary along with a client, or ensuring that a client is on time to a critical meeting.”
Optimization also includes the adoption of larger aircraft types. Sentient regularly flies aircraft like the Challenger 300, Citation Sovereign and Citation X, business jets that are not large-cabin but still fly coast-to-coast in comfort. These super midsize jets have become the favorites of Sentient’s corporate clients, who comprise about 60 percent of its customers.
The final differentiator between Sentient and most other providers is the level of benefits it offers customers. In the last year, Sentient Cardholders have enjoyed a members-only breakfast cooked by master chef (and brand ambassador) Bobby Flay at Louisville’s historic 21C Museum Hotel the morning of the Kentucky Derby and have been chauffeured around Manhattan to some of the city’s finest galleries and to Sotheby’s for Sentient’s New York City Art Experience, among other memorable experiences. “When our clients are in certain locations, our app notifies of nearby opportunities,” notes Collins. “It might prompt an invitation for a complimentary glass of champagne at the Peninsula Hotel or a private styling appointment at the Saks Fifth Avenue Club in New York. We’ve added partners who provide value to our clients, while making sure these partnerships are exclusive and discreet.”
Sentient’s growth has come by recognizing that private air travel is about efficiency, comfort and time savings. “Everyone runs off the same clock,” says Collins. “But we help our Cardholders manipulate it to their advantage. That’s one reason why we’ve had such a long track record of success.”
for more information CONTACT: 866.578.0228 sentient.com
A thriving Red Label membership, a client-centered iPhone app and new European operations are just a few factors behind Flexjet’s evolution.
Flexjet has been growing at one of the fastest rates in its 23-year history. In June, sales were up 50 percent year-over-year, thanks to an ambitious business model that has dramatically reshaped the company. After Directional Aviation Capital acquired Flexjet in 2013, chairman Kenneth Ricci wanted the company to become more than a leader in fractional ownership. He envisioned Flexjet as a luxury brand known for its world-class service and fleet, with a seamless international reach.
In just four years, that vision has become reality. The Flexjet fleet will also become much more heavily weighted in the large-cabin and ultra-long-range categories with the deliveries of the Gulfstream G500 and G650. Flexjet took delivery of its first G650 in October, while Gulfstream’s first G500 flagship will join the Flexjet fleet in early 2018. It has already acquired the Bombardier Global Express, nicknamed “the flying boardroom” of ultra-long-range aircraft. “We’ll have 20 large jet aircraft by the end of the year,” says Ricci. “We had none three years ago.”
The most successful component of Flexjet’s business model has been its Red Label program. Since it launched last year, 38 percent of Flexjet members have joined the program. “This is a fresh way of looking at aircraft ownership,” says Flexjet CEO Michael Silvestro. “The owner benefits have been both tangible and intangible, including many we’d never really expected.”
“Flexjet took delivery of its first G650 in October, while Gulfstream’s first G500 flagship will join the Flexjet fleet in early 2018.”
The Red Label jet collection is the youngest in the fractional industry, and it has one flight crew dedicated to each aircraft. Red Label jets all have advanced WiFi connectivity and feature customized interiors, defined by bold designs and well-appointed details like hand-stitched leather seats and fold-down ottomans in lounge areas. Beyond the sense of luxury, the human element is critical to Red Label’s success. “Our clients love seeing the same pilots and flight crew as they board the plane,” says Silvestro. “The bonds develop on both sides.”
The red-carpet treatment has been extended to all owners, with new Flexjet private terminals in White Plains, N.Y., and Naples, Fla. The two centers have dedicated hangars, parking and lounges exclusively for Flexjet owners. Another center will open next year in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Flexjet’s new app for the iPhone has also proven to be popular among owners, with nearly 20 percent using it within the first few weeks of its launch. Flexjet took a very methodical, owner-centric approach to its design. Owners can book trips, order catering and request ground transportation. The app also provides real-time travel notifications for trips, detailed itineraries and even photos of their pilots so they can be easily identified at the FBO. Owners can also rebook flights they fly regularly. Potential owners can also check out the Flexjet fleet, comparing aircraft, cabin sizes and technical details.
The launch of Flexjet Ltd. in the UK allows owners to now travel seamlessly between continents. Flexjet owners can cross the Atlantic on the G450, G650, G500 or Global Express and within minutes of landing transfer to a Flexjet Nextant 400XTi for intra-European travel. “Our owners are greeted by Flexjet personnel wearing the same uniforms, offering the same level of service,” says Silvestro. “The owners immediately realize that they’re on the second leg of an unbroken flight, rather than dealing with an unknown charter firm. This is part of our plan to make global travel as seamless as possible.”
for more information CONTACT: 866.473.0025 flexjet.com
Wheels Up is transforming the industry by introducing new clients to private flight through value, the most efficient aircraft and innovative programs.
When industry veteran Kenny Dichter founded Wheels Up in 2013, he saw an opportunity to democratize private aviation, creating a membership model using technology, value and the King Air 350i aircraft. Four years later, it is difficult to find a private aviation company that can match the growth that Wheels Up is experiencing. Currently with over 75 private aircraft in its fleet and 4,500-plus active members, the company has made it possible for more people to fly privately than ever before.
A Wheels Up Membership delivers unique experiences in the air and on the ground. “Wheels Up is significantly different from other business models like fractional ownership that require a capital outlay and long-term ownership of a depreciating asset,” says Dichter. “And unlike jet cards, we don’t require minimum hours. With Wheels Up, members join for a reasonable membership fee and have access to a fleet with as little as 24 hours’ notice.”
Wheels Up offers both individual/family and business memberships at a modest initiation fee and fixed hourly pricing on a pay-as-you-fly basis, with no hidden charges. Wheels Up Members benefit from the safety, comfort and consistency that come with the company’s private fleet of King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS aircraft.
“Eighty percent of private flights in America are less than two hours in length, which is ideal for the King Air 350i,” Dichter says. “We like to think of the King Air 350i as a flying SUV, with seats for eight and space for eight golf bags.” Wheels Up envisions a fleet of over 150 King Air 350i aircraft by 2022.
“Eighty percent of private flights in America are less than two hours in length, which is ideal for the King Air 350i.”
The second aircraft type in the fleet, the Citation Excel/XLS, complements the short-haul efficiency of the King Air 350i. The Citation Excel/XLS has a stand-up cabin, four-hour range and upgraded entertainment package. All Wheels Up aircraft have WiFi and Gogo Text & Talk technology.
Wheels Up Members can also book customized charter flights to almost any destination worldwide via the Wheels Up Flight Desk, which assists members who are traveling longer range (four-plus hours) or with more than eight passengers. The Wheels Up partnership with HeliFlite provides members access to its fleet of Bell 430 and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters for service in greater New York City, the northeastern U.S., Chicago and South Florida.
Through cutting-edge technology, the Wheels Up Member App and Website have simplified private air travel, making it easy for members to manage all aspects of their membership while exploring innovative program features that increase the value of the Wheels Up program. The Shared Flights program provides a forum for members looking to share the cost of travel to book flights to shared destinations, while Wheels Up Shuttles offer individual seats on flights traveling to and from popular destinations. Hot Flights allows members to view and book from a large selection of empty legs, posted daily, for less than the cost of a commercial flight, and Hot Nights provides a curated collection of vacation opportunities for booking at luxury villas and resorts around the world.
“We are committed to providing our members with a world-class digital experience,” says Dichter. “As we expand our fleet and introduce more cutting-edge technology, we can disrupt and redefine the space, allowing us to bring private aviation to more people than ever before.”
Wheels Down is the ultimate lifestyle, events and concierge program that provides exclusive experiences as a benefit of membership. Insider access to events like the Super Bowl, Art Basel and the Masters are just a few benefits of the company’s partnerships with top lifestyle brands. Wheels Down Concierge by Four Hundred is a global, full-service concierge program that offers access to sought-after restaurants, sports events, concerts, clubs and more.
With Wheels Up, it’s as much about life on the ground as it is about travel in the air.
for more information CONTACT: 855.FLY.8760 wheelsup.com
The release of new technologies, including online accounts, gives Jet Aviation clients much greater control over flight operations.
Technology, integrity and transparency have helped Jet Aviation evolve from a small, family-owned company in Switzerland to a recognized global leader in business aviation. The wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics has a worldwide footprint that continues to expand, with services ranging from aircraft management, maintenance, completions and refurbishment to charter and staffing. Its FBO network has over 30 airport facilities across five continents.
Behind its strategic growth are systems and practices that clients recognize as critical to their interests as aircraft owners. “Our aircraft management division takes what can be a very complicated asset and ensures that the owners don’t have to manage anything,” says Don Haloburdo, vice president and general manager of Jet Aviation Flight Services. “We also have systems in place that make the financial component transparent, so owners can immediately track any expenses related to their aircraft.”
That information became even more accessible when Jet Aviation launched a client portal that lets them view invoices, with detailed charges, as soon as they are compiled. “Clients see every dollar they’ve spent for the maintenance and operation of their aircraft,” says Haloburdo. “They see that there are no unusual markups or opaque charges, and that we only charge a fixed fee for our services. Most understand the value we bring through that level of transparency.”
“When a customer takes delivery, we make sure they’re getting the aircraft to the specs they ordered.”
Jet Aviation’s purchasing scale for the nearly 300 business jets in its management program, its global network of FBOs, 4,500 aviation professionals and its multilevel safety protocols are also seen as differentiators for owners. Jet Aviation’s client roster, which includes Fortune 100 corporations and heads of state, own midrange, long-range and ultra-long-range jets, so they appreciate a firm with a proven history and standardized best practices across its network.
Jet Aviation’s use of the Avianis platform, which gives clients the ability to communicate directly with flight crews, has been another technical benefit added in the last two years. The cloud-based system allows clients to obtain charter quotes and plan trips, while also providing instant collaboration from anywhere in the world if they need to change a flight at the last minute.
“It eliminates a lot of the email going back and forth, so owners can make significant changes in real time,” says Haloburdo. “They can also monitor their accounts from their smartphones, oversee trips, lists of passengers, catering and ground transportation.” Avianis also provides a single network for Jet Aviation to oversee logistics, fleet management, trip planning, compliance, flight records management, customer data management and other functions.
Beyond flight operations, Jet Aviation’s management program delivers long-term benefits. “When a customer takes delivery, we make sure they’re getting the aircraft to the specs they ordered,” says Haloburdo. “During its life cycle, we ensure that not only is it being maintained, but that its records are impeccable and digitally stored.”
Jet Aviation also provides recommendations for technical upgrades. “We don’t want the owner to sell the aircraft and find that it has significantly less value than it could have had,” says Haloburdo. This complete and candid approach to asset management has helped Jet Aviation develop what are considered the gold standard of business practices in private aviation.
for more information CONTACT: 877.357.0182 jetaviation.com
DELTA PRIVATE JETS
A flexible, client-focused program, built-in value and the Delta connection make Delta Private Jets unique in private aviation.
Drawing on more than 30 years of experience as a leader in business aviation, Delta Private Jets continues to innovate with smart programs and technologies. Its suite of services includes the Jet Card, on-demand charter services and aircraft management.
A comprehensive, WiFi-enabled fleet of business jets, a straightforward business approach, a stellar Platinum safety rating with ARGUS, a mobile app in development and price reductions for empty-leg flights are several benefits to Jet Card members. Delta Private Jets, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, also offers a level of financial security and transparency that is sometimes lacking in private aviation.
The Delta connection provides benefits that no other competitor can replicate. The Delta Private Jets Card allows its members to purchase flights on Delta Private Jets and Delta Air Lines, creating opportunities for seamless travel anywhere in the world. “Our members understand the advantages of being able to move between commercial and private air travel,” says Gary Hammes, Delta Private Jets president. “They see the strategic and financial value of having this kind of flexibility.”
Jet Card sales at Delta Private Jets have increased by 20 percent year-over-year, as more individual and corporate members see the practical benefits of membership. The program includes no interchange or hidden fees, locked-in rates for up to two years, choice of jet category for every flight and refund or rollover balance options. Jet Card members with a $100,000-plus purchase also gain instant SkyMiles® Diamond Medallion® status.
“Delta Private Jets Card members are offered guaranteed availability in as little as 10 hours.”
Status in Delta’s exclusive Diamond Medallion program includes benefits like SkyClub membership, immediate access to Delta’s Choice Benefits and 20 percent off published fares in select fare classes. Diamond Medallion status not only ensures a first-class approach to air travel, but also provides tangible benefits like SkyBonus points, automatic seat upgrades and other perks that make cross-country or international flights more pleasant.
“We’ve been working hard to match member benefits to the style and approach with which our clients like to travel,” says Hammes. “For instance, we’ve established a partnership with Porsche for transporting Jet Card members between Delta’s major hubs and smaller airports where they board their private aircraft.” The luxury brand partnership of Delta Private Jets and German carmaker Porsche North America provides new, chauffeur-driven Porsche vehicles for smooth transfers. “It’s just another way to make the transition between flights simple and pleasant,” says Hammes.
Delta Private Jets’ fleet is comprised of more than 70 private jets that range from light aircraft to large-body business jets, strategically positioned across the country. Delta Private Jets Card members are offered guaranteed availability in as little as 10 hours. Most of the aircraft will be upgraded with Gogo Biz 4G at the start of 2018, offering the most advanced WiFi solution in aviation. Streaming video and audio, watching new movies, talking and texting, web browsing and email will be accomplished at ultrafast speeds.
The Delta Private Jets app, to be released by the end of 2017, enables members to quote and book private jet travel, add passenger information and access their account information and statements from their mobile devices. “Once again, we’ve listened to how our customers use technology and are adopting the best solutions,” says Hammes.
Delta Private Jets’ new “empty-legs” program allows its members to reserve a one-way flight on a jet that would otherwise have had no passengers. Most members pay a monthly fee to participate in the program, while those with balances above $500,000 have complimentary access to repositioning flights. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in empty-leg opportunity from our members,” says Hammes. “We offer an entire jet, rather than just a seat, so our clients can bring their family and friends on the flight. It’s another unique benefit and shows how we are injecting value into every part of the Jet Card program.”
for more information CONTACT: 877.541.3548 DeltaPrivateJets.com
Creating a higher set of standards for bespoke global charter.
In just two years, Zetta Jet has become the Pacific Rim’s fastest-growing charter company by expanding its fleet of long-range business jets, while offering a bespoke experience that has established the highest standards in charter. The company has elevated charter by every conceivable benchmark to match the values of its clients, who range from Silicon Valley visionaries to chief executives of international banking and investment firms to leaders of the music industry.
“We incorporate an Asian service philosophy that is second to none in terms of forethought and attention to detail, along with an American can-do attitude for special requests,” says Matthew Walter, Zetta Jet’s cofounder and director of sales. “We’ve also adopted a European-chic way of presenting ourselves, whether it’s our contemporary aircraft interiors or the luxurious details that our clients discover in-flight.”
Zetta Jet is based in Singapore with executives in the U.S. and Europe. Its cabin crews, representing over 20 nationalities, have been carefully selected from the best aviation, hospitality and service establishments. “We pair passengers with an attendant who is familiar with their culture and language as well as their service preferences,” says Walter. “By focusing on these details, we make sure our flights are unique experiences for all passengers.”
“We’re also unusual in that we operate on a floating-fleet model. That means our aircraft have no home base.”
The Zetta Jet fleet has grown in two years from a single Bombardier Global 6000 to 18 long-range business jets owned and managed by the company. The fleet includes the Bombardier Global 6000, Global 5000, Global XRS, Global Express and Challenger 650 models—aircraft with transcontinental capabilities that cover the Pacific Rim. It will eventually add Global 7000s.
The company also offers a range of interior styles and configurations, while always providing the finest amenities. “By design, we’re taking delivery of different cabin configurations and different color schemes,” says Walter. “Some customers want a double divan in the back; some want a huge bed.” Its Global 6000, for instance, has Egyptian-cotton linens, Christofle tableware and Salon champagne (one example from a wine list curated by a renowned sommelier) for the highest levels of luxury. The fleet also has business aviation’s fastest Ku-band and Ka-band WiFi, so guests can call, text or surf the web from their smart devices anywhere in the world. In the cabins, LCD screens, iPads and Bose noise-cancellation headsets are connected to the latest movies and a music library.
“We’re also unusual in that we operate on a floating-fleet model,” notes Walter. “That means our aircraft have no home base, so customers can enjoy point-to-point pricing.” That is especially beneficial for clients seeking a one-way charter crossing the Pacific.
Its on-demand charter and block hours also do not require capital investments or monthly management fees. The block hours provide important benefits like guaranteed availability within 48 hours of booking, a fixed hourly rate for the entire contract and global coverage without ferry fees within service areas; plus 20 percent of purchased flight hours can be rolled over to the following year.
Zetta Jet is also the first and only Part 135 operator to conduct polar flights. That allows its ultra-long-range jets to optimize routes and fly nonstop, while most other operators must often stop to refuel. “This is just one detail among many that sets us apart,” says Walter. “We’ve looked at every aspect of charter to provide the best value while setting new standards of luxury and comfort for our customers. Our fast growth shows we’re succeeding.”