REBIRTH IN THE SKIES
PRIVATE AVIATION FIRMS ARE GETTING SMARTER, MORE TECH-SAVVY AND COST-EFFECTIVE AS THEY ADAPT TO EMERGING CONSUMER TRENDS
Private aviation is moving in an exciting new direction, with both long-established businesses and startups reporting consistent growth. The companies that have seen the greatest gains have been those that have modified their business plans to reflect changing trends in consumer habits. Sentient, which reported four years of double-digit growth, appeals to fliers who like the “asset-light” model of not purchasing an aircraft, but using the best–available business jets. The originator of the jet card has also developed some of the most flexible and consumer-friendly jet card programs in the industry.
Nicholas Air has continued to build an expanding client base with a private-club model that combines the best possible customer service experience with a young fleet of diverse aircrafts. The company also offers its members a choice between card, leasing or fractional programs.
Jet Aviation, a truly global company, has broadened its U.S. operations by acquiring a leading California aircraft firm, AvJet, and building a new full-service Jet Aviation fixed-base operator (FBO) in Van Nuys, Calif., long considered the hub of business aviation on the West Coast. This General Dynamics company performs at consistently high levels around the world, across a broad range of aviation services.
Wheels Up promises to transform private aviation with technology, using apps that provide instant access to some of the industry’s most cost-effective programs, including ride shares with other members, weekend shuttles between New York and Cape Cod and empty-leg or return flights that can cost less than $400 to charter an entire aircraft. This tech-savvy model is appealing to younger fliers in particular.
Beyond their own programs, private aviation’s leaders have also increased their value propositions by partnering with travel, food and wine, clothing and other firms offering premium goods or services at substantial discounts. Using smarter programs and technology, these companies are moving business aviation in a new direction, one where the joys of flying privately are now more cost efficient, flexible and consumer friendly.
THE ORIGINATOR OF THE JET CARD IS ENJOYING RECORD SALES, THANKS TO THE CONSUMER-FRIENDLY TERMS OF ITS PROGRAMS AND ITS ASSET-LIGHT APPROACH TO PRIVATE AVIATION
The inventor of the jet card concept is enjoying one of the most active periods in its 17-year history. Sentient has reported four consecutive years of double-digit growth in jet card sales. For the first half of 2016, the company sold over $100 million of its Jet Cards.
“Our flying base remains vibrant,” says Andrew Collins, Sentient CEO. “We’re experiencing sustained growth in a hypercompetitive market. I think we’re doing so well because our Jet Card is not only consumer-friendly but also timely. We invented the asset-light model for private aviation well before its time.”
With each flight, our goal is to reach and often exceed the levels of service our clients expect. That is key to our culture.
When Sentient launched its Jet Card concept in 1999, it introduced a new business model to private aviation. Cardholders could enjoy the benefits of flying privately, without the exorbitant upfront costs and multiyear commitments of fractional ownership. Sentient, however, avoided the pitfalls of traditional charter by developing a safety infrastructure that set industry standards and partnering with the top 20 percent of the country’s business aircraft fleet.
“Our clients love that they’re in control of the way they fly,” says Collins. “They understand that the charter market can’t replicate our layers of safety and full range of aircraft, and fractional involves a commitment they’re not willing to make. We’ve created a sweet spot for our 5,000 cardholders.”
The Sentient tagline, “A More Thoughtful Way to Fly,” is much more than just a marketing phrase. “The flexible ways that we’ve structured our programs are both sensible and intelligent,” says Collins. “Our programs deliver practical benefits like a 10-hour access guarantee, an ability to upgrade across our fleet and an account balance that never expires,” says Collins. “The ‘private’ part is also part of our business because we believe in exclusive, luxury service that few others provide.”
A dedicated team of private aviation experts find the best private-jet solutions for clients, with domestic or international flights, as well as assisting with ground transportation and hotels. “With each flight, our goal is to reach and often exceed the levels of service our clients expect. That is key to our culture,” says Collins.
The “Sentient-Certified” program is also integral to Sentient’s culture. “Sentient-Certified goes beyond rigorously vetting potential aircraft partners,” says Collins. “Our proprietary certification process is by far most comprehensive in the Part 135 space. We analyze thousands of pieces of data well before we give any flight the green light.”
Sentient is equally selective about its member benefits. Cardholders gain special access to exclusive businesses like Andrew Harper Travel, Aspen Snowmass, Dean & DeLuca, and other leaders in their fields. Sentient was also this year named the first-ever preferred private aviation partner of the Kentucky Derby. “We’re always looking for value-added benefits for our cardholders,” says Collins. “These partnerships allow us to continue to offer exclusive VIP experiences.”
Sentient has always been an early adopter with new technologies. The Sentient Jet app is a fine example. Cardholders can gain real-time quotes on their mobile devices, manage trips, submit catering and ground transportation requests, and find out the latest trip status. The app also provides live chat support. “This allows our clients to handle their trips directly from their devices,” says Collins. “We’re big on technology that will make their experience more seamless. Our mission is to constantly develop more thoughtful ways to fly.”
TECHNOLOGY, CONSUMER-FRIENDLY PROGRAMS AND SMART AIRCRAFT CHOICES HAVE PUT WHEELS UP ON A FAST GROWTH TRACK
When Kenny Dichter founded Wheels Up in 2013, his business plan was to create a revolutionary membership-based private aviation company to democratize the private aviation industry. Three years later, Dichter has more than succeeded, taking Wheels Up from a disruptive startup to a category leader that offers a total private aviation solution to its nearly 3,000 members.
Dichter, who pioneered the jet card business in 2001 by launching the first-ever jet card with Marquis Jet, has now created Wheels Up to broaden the addressable market and enable many more people to fly privately than ever before.
For a modest initiation fee, Wheels Up offers both family and corporate memberships with guaranteed hourly pricing on a “pay-as-you-fly” basis, with no hidden charges. “It’s like being a member of a yacht club without having to own the yacht,” says Dichter. Wheels Up members have access to a private fleet of over 65 new Beechcraft King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS aircraft. The King Air 350i, the most comfortable solution for short-haul flights, offers the same flight times as similar-sized business jets. “The 350i is like a flying SUV,” says Dichter. “It has seats for eight passengers and space for eight golf bags, and it’s a lot more economical than a similar jet aircraft.” The Citation Excel/XLS, with stand-up cabin, four-hour range, and upgraded entertainment package, complements the short-haul efficiency of the King Air 350i. In addition, all Wheels Up aircrafts are equipped with WiFi and Gogo Text and Talk technology.
Wheels Up has made it its mission to continuously introduce innovative enhancements to its membership that create more value and provide our members with the absolute best experience—from wheels up to wheels down.
The Wheels Up App gives members real-time control of booking a flight, viewing itineraries and managing accounts. “Wheels Up is a forward-thinking company always looking to be ahead of the curve, and we are committed to delivering innovation to our membership,” says Dichter. “The app lets members do everything from taking advantage of empty leg flights, to booking shuttle flights, to sharing flights with members.”
With Shared Flights, accessible through the Wheels Up App, members can share the cost of travel by coming together and booking flights to shared destinations. “You’re traveling with like-minded people who are already members. This as a great way to network and cut costs too,” says Dichter.
Wheels Up members can book from a selection of Hot Flights, empty-leg opportunities on jets, turboprops and helicopters, posted daily and updated in real-time. “The entire aircraft can cost as little as $320,” says Dichter. “That’s even less than the cost of a commercial flight.”
The Wheels Up Shuttle program allows members to book seats on private Wheels Up shuttles (operated by Gama Aviation) going to and from popular destinations and events.
For instances that require longer range travel or with more than eight passengers, the Wheels Up Flight Desk can assist members with any “off-fleet” charter flight needs. Wheels Up also has a partnership with Heliflite, and its fleet of Bell 430 and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters that provide service in greater New York City/Northeastern U.S., Chicago and South Florida.
Wheels Down is the ultimate lifestyle, events and concierge program, designed as a benefit to Wheels Up membership. The company has partnered with the world’s top lifestyle brands that provide exclusive offers and experiences to Wheels Up members. Benefits also include insider access to Wheels Down signature experiences around popular events like the Super Bowl, Art Basel and the Masters. Wheels Down Concierge by Four Hundred is a full-service global concierge program that offers access to sought after restaurants, sports events, concerts, clubs and more.
A UNIQUE PRIVATE-CLUB BUSINESS MODEL AND UNWAVERING CUSTOMER SERVICE HAVE FUELED THIS COMPANY’S GROWTH
Launched in 1997, Nicholas Air has grown steadily from a small company into one of the most prestigious providers of jet card, jet lease, jet share/fractional ownership, and aircraft management services in business aviation. Serving the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean, Nicholas Air provides flexible and cost-efficient private air travel.
Founder Nicholas Correnti started his aviation career at the age of 12 when he took his first flying lesson. Four years later, he had flown 1000+ hours and soloed four aircraft on his 16th birthday for a world record. In 1997, Correnti acquired his first Twin Cessna 340 to launch Nicholas Air.
Correnti served as the pilot, customer service agent, and accountant, quickly growing the business into the nation’s most exclusive provider. He also formed two priorities that now serve as the company’s operating philosophy. “The number one priority is our customers’ safety,” he says. “Number two is providing a consistently high level of service that ensures that the client is happy, along with continuous improvements to that service.”
Correnti also established the business as a private, members-only jet club, which he likens to being part of a family with access to one of the youngest fleets in business aviation. The model has certainly worked since 83% of new sales come from member referrals and 99% of members repurchase hours.
A hallmark for Nicholas Air’s success, each aircraft in their fleet is replaced after five years, enhancing reliability and ensuring the latest technological advancements. Its versatile fleet includes Pilatus PC-12s, Phenom 100, Phenom 300, and Citation Latitude jets. As the owner and operator, Nicholas Air maintains each aircraft to the highest standards and has remained accident-free during its 20-year history.
The company offers four convenient programs for clients with different flight goals. “We can’t be compared to charter because there’s simply no comparison,” says Correnti. “We offer a pristine, new fleet of aircraft, personalized service, and consistent reliability. We are like the country club of private air travel. You join the club and you gain access to our beautiful new fleet and highly trained personnel. It’s a family and a familiar face.”
Three Jet Card programs are available for people who prefer a minimal upfront investment with access to the entire fleet. The BLUE Card is a pre-purchase of hours program, the RISE Card is a deposit based program, and the SMART Card is a pay as you fly program with a fully refundable security deposit and unparalleled flexibility. Guaranteed availability, no repositioning fees, access to the entire fleet, and no long-term commitment are just a few of the benefits of a Nicholas Air Jet Card.
The Jet Lease program is for those frequent fliers who prefer a monthly payment system with access to the entire fleet. It offers the same benefits as fractional ownership, without the upfront financial commitment of an asset.
Jet Share, or fractional ownership, offers greater flexibility at a fraction of the cost, without the hassles of whole aircraft ownership. “This program is ideal for anyone who flies over 100 hours per year and wants to gain from the depreciation benefits of owning an asset,” notes Correnti.
Nicholas Air Aircraft Management Services provides a turn-key program for those who want to enjoy the benefits of aircraft ownership without the complexities of daily flight operations. In addition, this program saves both time and money with reduced fuel, insurance and maintenance costs.
Providing exceptional service like those in any exclusive private club has been key to Nicholas Air’s growth. Regardless of the program you choose, you can be assured an exceptional level of personal service, on the ground and in the air. Accessing over 9,000 airports across the U.S., and many more in their service area, you’ll arrive closer to your final destination. “The goal for everyone at Nicholas Air is to exceed our customers’ expectations on every flight,” says Correnti. “We’re proud of the reputation we’ve built.”
JET AVIATION, WITH A TRULY GLOBAL NETWORK, NOW OFFERS ITS CLIENTS GREATER ACCESS TO THE WEST COAST, WITH TWO NEW FACILITIES IN CALIFORNIA
Jet Aviation has increased its presence in California recently with the purchase of Avjet Corporation in Burbank and the construction of a new FBO in Van Nuys. The acquisitions give the General Dynamics company an even stronger presence in the western half of North America.
“We’re making strategic choices to be where our customers are located,” says Don Haloburdo, vice president and general manager for Jet Aviation Flight Services. “These most recent acquisitions give us brick-and-mortar presences in the key West Coast market. Clients like knowing that we’re local and offer a full range of services.”
Avjet, with 37 years in aircraft management and charter services, has a fleet of 45 aircraft, many of them medium- to long-range jets, making it one of the largest business aviation firms on the West Coast. Joining Jet Aviation’s network of charter and aircraft management operations in Teterboro, Zurich, Hong Kong, and Dubai makes Avjet even more important as an international provider. “Our Avjet clients will especially appreciate having access to our global network of facilities,” says Haloburdo.
The new FBO facility in Van Nuys, the seventh facility in the Americas, is just as significant to Jet Aviation’s long-term strategy. A new 10,000-sq. foot LEED Silver certified FBO terminal, with two 40,000-sq. foot hangars, will be completed by the end of 2018. The new FBO will offer domestic and international handling, complete line services, a flight planning room, executive conference room, crew lounge, offices and business center. “It’s an impressive facility that will reflect Jet Aviation’s unwavering professionalism and full-service approach to interacting with our customers,” says Haloburdo.
Unlike competitors who offer charter or other flight programs with untested business models, Jet Aviation has remained true to its mission of providing world-class services to its clients, literally, around the world. “We see ourselves as a stable partner in our client’s business,” says Haloburdo. “Nobody can deliver what we do at such consistently high levels, whether it’s aircraft management, charter, MRO, completions or FBO services. We offer a breadth and depth of services that others just can’t match.”
Around the world, Jet Aviation has more than 4,500 employees in 20 facilities. “Other companies don’t have the same level of resources,” says Haloburdo. “We also have the ability to expand those services, often through technology.”
Jet Aviation Basel in Switzerland, for instance, can generate a detailed scale model 3D print for a new custom interior in a few weeks. The company also recently launched the JetVision app, which provides real-time updates, 3D content and video to clients anywhere in the world, as the project progresses. The completions center, certified for Airbus ACJ and Boeing BBJ, has engineered and produced intricate and stunning interiors, sometimes with exotic wood veneers or 24-karat gold inlays.
“Another company might take six months for the level of detail we provide in our initial 3D digital mockup in a matter of weeks,” says Haloburdo. “Our clients appreciate those time savings, but what they really love is that our technology is way ahead of everyone else.”
Another example of forward thinking is Jet Aviation’s Client Portal, which offers access to detailed account information like invoices, maintenance schedules and flight calendars. “Our new scheduling software provides a broader view of an aircraft’s calendar and gives owners immediate input into its scheduling,” says Haloburdo. “Clients are sensitive about their time and so are we. We’re constantly upgrading the technology across all platforms to make interactions with clients more efficient. Features like this really set us apart.”
Jet Aviation has become the first U.S. firm to add an Airbus ACJ318 to its Part 135 air carrier certificate. The ACJ318, with its tasteful, corporate VIP interior, has an ultra-wide cabin with a Honeywell Cabin Management System. With a range of 4,200 miles, it can accommodate 18 passengers. “The ACJ 318, along with the BBJ offered by Avjet, provides tremendous benefits to our customers who travel long distances with many passengers,” notes Haloburdo.