How can these and other similar companies afford to offer such low rates? One reason is that sites like JetSuite.com are offering seats on flights that would have been empty or at least not full. “Over 40% of flights that are flying private have empty seats,” says Steve King, the co-founder of private jet charter company AeroIQ. Many times, these flights are simply repositioning so they can pick up passengers in another city and the companies would rather get some money from passengers than no money.
Flight departments are corporate-owned operators who manage the aircraft of a specific company. Ford Motor Company, Chrysler, and Altria are examples of companies that own, maintain and operate their own fleet of private aircraft for their employees. Flight departments handle all aspects of aircraft operation and maintenance. In the United States, flight-department aircraft operate under FAR 91 operating rules.
Over the past several years, global economic conditions led to record levels of pre-owned private aircraft listed for sale, ranging from smaller, propeller-driven airplanes to the largest, most advanced, and most luxurious intercontinental business jets. This truly resulted in a ‘buyer’s market,’ with purchasers able to select from a high number of quality aircraft, often for comparatively low prices.
Aircraft leases are often used by private aircraft operators, as leases provide the same level of access to an aircraft that ownership provides, without the capital expenditure buying a business jet requires. Leases are offered in two main forms: wet leasing, normally used for short-term access; and dry leasing, typically used for longer term leases. Under wet leases, flight crews are provided in tandem with the aircraft, while operators of dry leased aircraft supply their own crews. Combination wet-dry leases may also be offered, as when an aircraft is wet leased to establish service, and once an in-house flight crew is trained, switched to a dry lease.
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JetSmarter, around since 2013, is an example of a player in the private aviation space selling shared flights. The company operates on a membership model: Fliers pay a minimum of $15,000 a year and book seats on already scheduled flights through the JetSmarter app, which lists more than 150 domestic and international trips a day. Trips under three hours are included in the cost of the membership while longer ones are an average of $300 a person, according to Sergey Petrossov, the company’s chief executive officer; most flights have an average of eight to 10 passengers.
For the decade starting in 2017, Aviation Week predicts 11,346 deliveries of business aircraft (jets or not) valued at $250.1 billion, with a fleet growing from 31,864 aircraft to 36,702 aircraft (64% in North America): 4,838 more at an average annual growth rate of 1.6%, with 5,835 retirements. For the coming five-year period, Textron Aviation should lead the market with a 22.8% market share, followed by Bombardier with 20.4%, Embraer with 16.6%, Gulfstream with 15%, Dassault with 8.4% then the rest of manufacturers with 16.9%. There should be 22,190 Engine deliveries, led by the Honeywell HTF7000, Williams FJ44, Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A Medium, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW300 and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A Large. The average utilization should be 365 flight hours per aircraft per year.