Leaving on a Jet Plane

Private jet companies are coming up with new ways to attract busy global passengers with no time for delay.

It’s no secret that top management of increasingly globalised businesses require maximum flexibility of movement. And it’s no secret that check-in procedures for commercial flights are becoming ever more complicated – a frenetic businessperson with a first class ticket for an international flight and an economy class, flip-flop wearing tourist must both be at the airport at least two hours before departure and go through the same check-in and security processes.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that more people – including those in the Czech Republic – are leaving the long lines in favor of the quick access and better value of private jets.

In the Czech Republic, “the private jet business is booming right now, with growth around 15% per year on average,” explains Brian Silverman of Jet Executive Transport. His company provides private aircraft charters for VIPs, celebrities, business executives, heads of state, government officials, and professional sports teams. It also arranges jet charters for special travel groups of any size to any destination. An established global network allows flights to depart and arrive in locations across the world. “This growth is even higher in some areas where standard commercial airline connections are limited. There are secondary cities where there is substantial commercial activity and wealth, but not a lot of easy transportation options,” he adds.

A Virgin charter private jet.

Using private jets indeed does have practical advantages. Departure times can be determined by the client and they offer the ability to fly closer to final destinations or to smaller airports instead of major hubs. And they also offer return flights the very same day, thereby saving the cost of a hotel.

There are also the kinds of special services appealing especially to wealthy travellers: airport pickups, and meals from a client’s choice of restaurant. Additionally, private jets can be booked at short notice, up to 24 hours before departure. In many cases renting a private jet can even save you money. With a group of eight people renting a Lear jet you can often beat the prices of commercial airline fares.

CEE increase

In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) there has been a noticeable increase in business jet customers, according to ABS Jets. “The most typical clients are those from large corporations that send their top management to various business meetings,” explains Jan Vá?a, commercial director of the company. “Due to the high level of investment opportunities in the CEE countries, management often needs to travel to destinations in the middle of nowhere – places where there are no scheduled airlines available.”

However, the landscape is becoming more competitive every year as VIPs and professionals are seeing the benefits of private jet travel. “This competition is great for discerning private jet travellers,” Jet Executive Transport’s Silverman acknowledges. “However, it means there is more choice of aircraft and availability. The number of aircraft operating out of Prague, for example, has doubled in the past year. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary are all seeing new aircraft operators springing up, each utilizing different types of aircraft that cater to different types of flight requirements based on range, efficiency, or cabin size.”

In fact, NetJets, the largest operator of business jets and private jets in Europe, made 5,700 private jet flights in Central and Eastern Europe during 2007. “This means an increase of approximately 20% compared to the year before,” explains Eva Becker, responsible for NetJets’ European PR activities. “Prague’s Ruzyn? airport accounted for the highest number of this air traffic,” she points out.

Individual strategies

“Our mission is to create a long-term relationship with our cherished and trusted partners based on the highest quality service, discretion, attention to detail, ultimate safety standards, and real value for the money,” Silverman says. “In part, this means being flexible and finding the right type of aircraft needed for each individual flight. It also means making sure the price point is attractive and has appropriate value.”

A different tack is taken by NetJets Europe. It offers its clients the choice between co-ownership of a private jet and a card program. A client can acquire a share in ownership of an airplane; a share of 1/16 equals 50 flight hours per year. (Clients only have to call and the desired jet will be at their disposal within 10 hours in Europe or the United States.) For clients who fly less than 50 hours per year, the card program allows them to acquire the right to use 25 flight hours. They can use this credit within 12 months and have no other long term obligations. They only pay for the flight hours they actually use.

A growing outlook

“The business jet market will certainly continue to enjoy significant growth in the CEE countries – especially in Russia, because of the growth of local economies,” predicts Jan Vá?a of ABS Jets. “There is the ever-increasing number of private individuals with high income who require new leisure and business destinations and who enjoy the flexibility an discreetness of business aviation compared with commercial airlines.”

Brian Silverman from Jet Executive Transport agrees: “The trend towards private jets will continue as private aircraft become more affordable for a wider range of professional and VIP travellers. Newer models of jets – both bigger and more efficient – are just coming on the market now, so we anticipate this growth trend to last for several more years, at least.”