XOJet grows and prepares for technology leap

Washington DC
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Private jet membership and on-demand charter company XOJet is not resting on its laurels after a stellar 2010, which included becoming the first business jet operator to offer Aircell's Gogo Biz in-flight internet on every US flight.

The Brisbane, California-based company owns 24 US-based aircraft, a mix of Cessna Citation Xs and Bombardier Challenger 300s, in addition to four Challenger 605s based in the UAE under a joint venture with local investors.

"We are exploring a couple of other technologies that could be game changing," says Bradley Stewart, president of commercial operations for XOJet. "Not only for in the air, but beyond the aircraft - things that could help the private aviation consumer considerably."

Stewart chooses not to reveal more, but says "additional service tweaks" that will "help consumers better use private aviation" are to be rolled out with little to no fanfare in the latter half of the year.

XOJet reported 50% year-over-year hours and revenue growth overall in 2010, with 60% growth at its New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco locations.

The company in February will open a sales office in New York and is building a new operations centre at its McClellan, California location. In-house maintenance bases remain the same, with operations continuing at McClellan, Van Nuys and Teterboro.

Fleet growth has slowed substantially from 2008 estimates, when the then two-year old TPG portfolio company planned to take 107 aircraft through 2013.

Stewart says three additional Challenger 300s will join the eight Challenger 300s in the US fleet this year, down from five new Challengers last year, while the UAE joint venture will get two additional Challenger 605s, bring the total there to six 605s.

Stewart says the joint venture cannot be compared with the US operations in terms of double-digit growth. "It's not fair to compare it with the [US] performance metrics," he says. "It's a little bit more of a start-up, though the partners have been happy and financial performance has been strong."

XOJet will decide this year whether to expand into a third aircraft type for the US fleet, says Stewart. Speculation earlier centred around the Bombardier Global family of ultra-long-range aircraft, although Stewart says the XOJet is "comfortable" with its super-midsize category niche. The company has 20 preferred partners when smaller or larger aircraft are needed.