NetJets Europe launches voluntary redundancy programme

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Fractional ownership giant NetJets Europe has launched a voluntary redundancy programme in a bid to shed up to 300 flight crew positions - equivalent to about one-third of its pilot workforce.

The Lisbon, Portugal business - a subsidiary of investment guru Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway - operates in more than 5,000 airports, with over 40 European airports serving as gateways. All its pilots are residents of either the European Union or Switzerland.

The fast-growing company, which was established in 1996, tells Flightglobal: "Ultimately, NetJets' goal is to avoid any compulsory redundancies, as seen elsewhere in the industry."

While declining to confirm exact numbers, it says: "Because this programme is currently active and potentially involving existing pilots, there are still some sensitivities involved.

"As such, we are not able to communicate the number of pilots subscribing to this programme or the total number of pilots NetJets employs because this scheme impacts on both figures."

After losing a cumulative $212 million in its first 10 years, NetJets Europe's earnings tripled in 2007 and it added more than 200 crew in 2008, having taken on 341 new pilots in 2007.

Earlier this year, however, it slashed its planned business jet deliveries by 60% as the economic downturn started to squeeze the business aviation market.

"We will take delivery of only 10 aircraft this year, including Hawker 750s, Dassault Falcon 2000EX/LXs and a 7X," said NetJets Europe chief operating officer Graeme Weston.

The operator added 30 aircraft to its fleet in 2008 and was planning to receive up to 27 this year, which would have taken its fleet to nearly 200 business jets. "Flight volumes have also decreased, but we are still growing, albeit at a much slower rate than in recent years," said Weston at the time.

NetJets Europe says it has spent much time and effort collaborating with its staff on the voluntary programme, which includes a combination of financial and benefit-based incentives to reduce available work days, including voluntary redundancy, part-time working, leave of absence involving long-term career breaks, and job sharing.

"We believe the range of options in this programme is unprecedented within the industry and reflects our desire to minimise potential disruption to people's lives and careers," says the operator.