A lot of the time, flying a commercial airline can be a huge pain.Even though the act of flight is amazing, cramped seats, lackluster food, and having to sit near a number of strangers on a regular airline is an unwelcome experience for anybody that lives in the air.
But buying a private plane can be an outrageous expense for an individual or a corporation. As we have seen in the past, Jackie Chan’s modestly sized Embraer probably set him back more than $29 million.
Expenses like that in today’s economic climate are almost impossible for many individuals and could wind up being a PR nightmare for major corporations.
So what is there in between? Enter the world of fractional jet ownership and private aircraft management.
A sort of ZipCar for the sky, fractional jet companies give members access to a range of jets while they maintain and pilot them. Members pay an initiation fee as well as fees to maintain the fleets. In certain cases, hourly fees apply to fly the planes as well.
In return, the buyer now owns a fraction of the aircraft. It seems that most of the time the smallest fares that can be purchased are around 1/16 of a plane. The larger the share, the more use of the plane you get.
So who are the players and why should you choose them? With some help from Fractional News, we have put together the key players in the segment as well as what they specialize in so you can decide for yourself.
As pricing varies heavily from plan to plan and among aircraft, it is best to check with the service you are interested in directly to get the most accurate rates.
Air Shares Elite focuses on the pilot. They maintain over 50 of the Cirrus SR22, which is a smaller, single-engined aircraft.
For pilots, this may be one of the best ways to jump into plane ownership.
They are also seeing a surprising influx of business travellers, which was not the original plan. It seems the fractional ownership model is attracting businessmen who prefer to fly themselves and do not want to be burdened with a plane to maintain.
At the end of the Air Shares contract, the plane is sold and the owners can either receive back their portion of the sale price in cash or put it towards another contract and plane.
Like Air Shares, Avantair only offers one plane for its customers to utilise: The Piaggio Avanti.
Unlike Air Shares, these are staffed planes with a pilot, making this program far more traditional than what Air Shares offers customers.
The Piaggio Avanti uses a reverse turboprop design with small canard wings in the front. The plane can make fast trips from New York to the Midwest, but would need to stop for fuel to fly coast to coast.
Avantair might be the advantageous choice for the regional traveller that wants to go somewhere in a very unique plane.
CitationAir operates Cessna's larger Citation jet aircraft.
With planes that theoretically can reach coast to coast, this program might be the perfect for the business traveller that needs to just from east to west in a hurry.
Citation has also expanded internationally.
Service is available in a number of area outside of the US, including most of Western Europe, South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. They just don't go to Asia...yet.
They offer a Jet Card in addition to fractional ownership, and it is not close to being cheap. It requires a $100,000 minimum deposit, and hourly flight rates can be as high as $8,500.
As the name implies, this is the division of commercial carrier Delta that caters to the business traveller that desires a more bespoke experience.
Delta offers a number of flexible plans that cater to the customer, including the opportunity to purchase just 10 hours of flight time up front to use whenever needed.
For this service, Delta also has a 'hub' type centre in Kentucky with a luxurious lounge and first rate facilities for the private jet flyer.
Run by Bombardier, FlexJet uses high-performance Learjet and Challenger aircrafts. Every plane they operate is capable of flying at over 500 MPH.
While they are fast, the two Challenger planes in the fleet also appear to have the range to fly from New York to London non-stop.
FlexJet requires participants in the fractional program to sign a five year contract for use. With that contract comes guaranteed plane availability every day of the year for the entire range of aircraft.
There also provide the option of allowing you to purchase your own aircraft while they supply crew and maintain it.
Flight Options offers planes from Hawker Beechcraft for its fractional ownership model.
A five year contract is required for entry. Flight Options published its pricing, and it is definitely not cheap. The lowest buy in is $305,000 for a 1/16 share, plus around $7,000 per month in maintenance and $1,200 per flight.
For companies that fly numerous employees around the country frequently, the expense may be worth it. And since the plane is not directly owned by the company, there is no PR nightmare to weigh down the company.
NetJets originated the category way back in 1986. They have the widest array of planes available to choose from and have also expanded overseas.
Like the other players in the market, NetJets requires an initial buy in on the plane, monthly maintenance costs, and an hourly flight rate. Since they have so many jets in the fleet, the rate is quite variable.
With NetJets, you are getting the most established player with one of the largest staffs and fleets in the business.
But maybe fractional ownership isn't right for you. Some people may not fly enough to make the initial expense worth it.
Most of these companies also offer regular charter services as well as 'flight cards' which are loaded with flight time. Unlike fractional ownership, access to the planes is not guaranteed.
However, that might be a good thing. Depreciation still has an effect on the owners of the planes.
JetSuites is very West Coast-centric right now, but its lean fleet offers values for customers. In fact, some flights are as low as $499. However, the planes typically fit about four people and have a maximum range of around 1,000 miles.
Flight time rarely exceeds one hour.
In the case of VistaJet, owner Thomas Fluhr has taken on all the risk. VistaJet owns all the planes, which means all the depreciation is also VistaJets'. Flights are not cheap; it is about $53,000 to fly between Moscow and London.
But then again, that is all the passengers will have to invest and there is no worry of losing additional funds.
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