Pri­vate avi­a­tion poised to grow au­di­ence

The Wichita Eagle - - Front Page - BY JERRY SIEBENMARK jsieben­[email protected]­chi­taea­gle.com

Use of pri­vate jets could rise as ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tions lead more peo­ple to fly on them, a re­cent sur­vey sug­gests.

In an Au­gust sur­vey of 115 busi­ness avi­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als com­mis­sioned by Rev­o­lu­tion.aero, 67 per­cent of re­spon­dents said tech­nol­ogy and app ad­vances will make it cheaper and eas­ier to book in­di­vid­ual seats on pri­vate jets.

And 51 per­cent of re­spon­dents said those ad­vances will also al­low for char­ter­ing pri­vate jet “dead legs” — in which a jet is fly­ing from one point to an­other with­out any pas­sen­gers.

“In this data and tech­nol­ogy rev­o­lu­tion, there is so much more that can be done to en­able own­ers of busi­ness air­craft to make their as­sets more ac­ces­si­ble to po­ten­tial cus­tomers, fur­ther en­hanc­ing the in­come . . . they earn from them,” said Alas­dair Whyte, co-founder of Rev­o­lu­tion.aero. “This cou­pled with the greater flex­i­bil­ity in how busi­ness air­craft can be char­tered will open up busi­ness jet travel for many more peo­ple.”

On the sur­face, the Rev­o­lu­tion.aero sur­vey re­sults might also sug­gest that with more peo­ple ex­posed to and fly­ing on pri­vate jets, it could be ben­e­fi­cial to man­u­fac­tur­ers of those jets such as Wi­chita’s Tex­tron Avi­a­tion and Bom­bardier.

They’d see the ad­van­tages of not hav­ing to ar­rive at the air­port two hours early to catch a flight, not to men­tion avoid­ing long se­cu­rity lines and bag­gage fees.

But in­dus­try lead­ers and an­a­lysts don’t think ex­panded ac­cess to pri­vate jets will trans­late to sub­stan­tially more or­ders for the Cessna, Beechcraft and Lear­jet planes that are built by more than 10,000 peo­ple in Wi­chita.

That’s be­cause a new gen­er­a­tion of pri­vate fliers has a dif­fer­ent take on jet own­er­ship.

“The new buzz­word is the shar­ing econ­omy,” said Brian Fo­ley, a New Jer­sey-based in­de­pen­dent busi­ness avi­a­tion con­sul­tant.

The next gen­er­a­tion of fliers — i.e., mil­len­ni­als — wants to ex­pe­ri­ence fly­ing on a pri­vate jet but not buy one, Fo­ley said.

“That gen­er­a­tion re­ally has no or not much in­ter­est in own­er­ship,” he said. “They’d much rather have the ac­cess to pri­vate fly­ing, and they’re will­ing to pay a pre­mium to hop in and go.”

Kenny Dichter, co-founder and CEO of pri­vate avi­a­tion mem­ber­ship com­pany Wheels Up, agrees, though he has a dif­fer­ent name for the “shar­ing econ­omy.”

“I am the firmest be­liever in the world we are in the mem­ber­ship econ­omy,” he said. “Peo­ple don’t want to own what they don’t need to own, and the air­plane busi­ness is no

dif­fer­ent.”

Wheels Up of­fers its nearly 5,000 mem­bers who pay an $8,500 an­nual mem­ber­ship fee aroundthe-clock ac­cess to a fleet of 90 Wi­chita-built King Air tur­bo­props and Cessna Ci­ta­tion jets via a mo­bile app.

The shar­ing econ­omy might also ex­plain why the mar­ket has ex­panded for jet cards, which al­low peo­ple to pre­pay for pri­vate jet flights us­ing deb­it­like cards for a fixed hourly rate and guar­an­teed avail­abil­ity of air­craft.

“It’s an­other ve­hi­cle to al­low you ac­cess to pri­vate avi­a­tion with­out hav­ing to buy an air­plane,” Fo­ley said.

Doug Gol­lan, founder and edi­tor of the Pri­vate Jet Card Com­par­isons web­site, said the num­ber of jet card providers has dou­bled since the 2008 re­ces­sion. His web­site tracks the of­fer­ings and com­pares 48 providers of 250 jet card pro­grams.

That bodes well for char­ter op­er­a­tors, own­ers of pri­vate jets who are will­ing to make their air­craft avail­able for char­ter, and de­vel­op­ers of apps that im­prove ac­cess to those air­craft and flights.

But it prob­a­bly doesn’t for man­u­fac­tur­ers want­ing to sell new air­planes.

“These new busi­ness mod­els don’t ex­tend the mar­ket for busi­ness jets, but they in­crease the uti­liza­tion of the ex­ist­ing fleet,” Fo­ley said.

Gol­lan added he doesn’t think the no­tion of pri­vate avi­a­tion for the masses will ex­pand the pri­vate air­craft mar­ket any­time soon.

“If I were in Wi­chita, I wouldn’t be bet­ting on . . . the de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion of pri­vate air travel,” he said.

Still, Fo­ley said Wi­chita’s pri­vate jet man­u­fac­tur­ers should see a no­table uptick in or­ders for at least a cou­ple of years. Fo­ley said the in­tro­duc­tion of new air­craft mod­els — in­clud­ing Bom­bardier’s Global 7500 and Tex­tron’s Cessna Ci­ta­tion Lon­gi­tude — into the mar­ket in the next cou­ple of years will stim­u­late or­ders for new jets.

“His­tor­i­cally when you have new prod­ucts com­ing out it gets the mar­ket ex­cited,” he said. “Be­yond that, hope­fully the global econ­omy’s emerg­ing mar­kets will im­prove a lit­tle bit.”

JERRY SIEBENMARK The Wi­chita Ea­gle

At­ten­dees at the 2016 Na­tional Busi­ness Avi­a­tion Con­ven­tion in Or­lando, Fla., wait in line to see the in­side of a Cessna Ci­ta­tion Lat­i­tude jet.

BO RADER The Wi­chita Ea­gle

Tex­tron Avi­a­tion’s Cessna Ci­ta­tion Lon­gi­tude on the as­sem­bly line at the Tex­tron east cam­pus in May.

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