TAK­ING OFF ON THE FLY

On-de­mand char­ter jets with­out the heavy up­keep of own­ern­er­ship are the grow­ing choice of ul­tra high net-worth in­di­vid­u­als.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Contents -

On-de­mand char­ter jets are gain­ing trac­tion.

Fly­ing the skies on pri­vate air­craft in­stead of com­mer­cial air­lines is gain­ing trac­tion among busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives.

But in­stead of own­ing jets, which can cost up to US$60 mil­lion (S$83 mil­lion) each and more than US$4 mil­lion a year to up­keep, ul­tra-high net­worth in­di­vid­u­als, or UHNWI, are now grav­i­tat­ing to­wards pri­vate char­ter.

It’s a global trend. A June re­port by avi­a­tion spe­cial­ists Ar­gus In­ter­na­tional showed that the char­ter jet busi­ness grew 11.5 per cent year-on-year, while frac­tional or part own­er­ship of ex­ec­u­tive air­craft fell 21 per cent.

It is the same in Sin­ga­pore. In Asia Pa­cific, the coun­try ranks sec­ond with a ra­tio of 30 char­ter jets based here for its 28 bil­lion­aires. Aus­tralia leads with 57:27.

Com­pe­ti­tion is in­tense for the UHNWI dol­lar and among the lead­ing char­ter­ers are Vis­taJet, Xo­jet, Blue Star Jets, Lux­ury Air­craft Solutions and One Sky Jets. Vis­taJet does not op­er­ate from any per­ma­nent lo­ca­tion and in­stead spreads its 70 Bom­bardier air­craft across all con­ti­nents to be near their cus­tomers.

Says Leona Qi, the com­pany’s pres­i­dent of Asia, “Vis­taJet air­craft do not have a home base, mean­ing we can be in lo­ca­tions when and where our cus­tomers want our jets. For op­er­a­tors with ded­i­cated home bases, any flights out­side of their zones are out­sourced, mak­ing in-flight ex­pe­ri­ences in­con­sis­tent, depend­ing on what air­craft cus­tomers are given.”

Rid­ing on the trend, Lon­don-based Fly Vic­tor created an on-de­mand free app that con­nects ex­ec­u­tives to 3,000 char­ter com­pa­nies world­wide in­clud­ing Vis­taJet. Like the Grab ride-hail­ing plat­form, trav­ellers just key in de­tails on where and when they want to fly and can choose from 7,000 jets. They are given com­par­a­tive costs and de­tails on air­craft and are then set for take off.

Dan Northover, Vic­tor’s chief marketing of­fi­cer, says the com­pany of­fers a mix of “high tech and high­touch cus­tomer ser­vice” through its web­site, app and 24-7 phone services.

“Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is the

ma­jor trend im­pact­ing pri­vate avi­a­tion,” he adds. “Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances will con­tinue to bring in­creased trans­parency and sim­plic­ity to the busi­ness avi­a­tion sec­tor, which will open the mar­ket to a whole new au­di­ence.”

Fol­low­ing the model of such services, Fly Vic­tor has re­cently launched Alto, a fre­quent-flyer pro­gramme where cus­tomers can use points to off­set the pric­ing of fu­ture flights. The pro­gramme is billed as a world first for pri­vate jet char­ter.

So what’s the price range for pri­vate avi­a­tion? Hourly rates on a Vis­tajet air­craft that can seat as many as 11 are from US$12,000 to US$17,000 – ar­guably as cost ef­fec­tive as first class seats on com­mer­cial flights. And now, with the in­tro­duc­tion of a re­wards sys­tem not un­like that of com­mer­cial air­lines, cus­tomers will have more in­cen­tive to fly pri­vate.

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