Operators waive Caribbean ferry fees and introduce other incentives in bid to attract and retain customers

As the fractional and jet-card markets rebound, operators are tweaking their programmes to attract new customers and retain or capture owners whose contracts are coming up for renewal. Discounted positioning flights, add-on hours, jet-card sample programmes and charter revenue guarantees are among the incentives on offer.

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As well as offering owners deep discounts on dead-head flights within the USA, CitationShares is enabling owners to travel to the Caribbean and Costa Rica without incurring repositioning fees. The fractional, owned by Cessna and TAG Aviation, is also allowing share owners to buy additional hours through its Vector JetCard block-charter programme.

CitationShares introduced a 20h card earlier this year, down from the industry-standard 25h.

Bombardier’s Flexjet was the first fractional to waive Caribbean ferry fees, beginning in February and saving owners up to $10,000 a trip. Flexjet also pioneered a programme enabling owners to place unused hours in a pool for purchase by other owners and says the scheme – which has yet to be replicated elsewhere – has proved “very successful”.

Bombardier’s Skyjet charter arm, meanwhile, is offering on-demand customers a chance to sample its jet-card programme without the usual 25h annual commitment, but at the hourly pricing available with a 100h card. The Demo Card costs a flat $10,000, to be applied against hourly rates ranging from $2,650 for a light jet to $6,720 for a large jet.

Flexjet is looking to relaunch its separate membership card programme, which provides access to the fractional fleet in 25h increments. Marketed exclusively through Delta AirElite, the card programme “has not delivered the magnitude of business hoped”, says the company. But the Delta Air Lines subsidiary says its own block-charter card has been a “significant catalyst” for growth, with renewals exceeding its “most aggressive estimates”.

Delta AirElite, meanwhile, has followed the lead of charter provider Executive Jet Management, owned by fractional NetJets, in offering revenue guarantees to business jet owners who join the company’s aircraft management programme. The guarantees vary according to aircraft type, availability for charter and geographic location, but range from 200-500h a year for select aircraft.

Charter providers are being boosted by the need to provide back-up to the fractionals. NetJets saw flight hours increase 12% in the first quarter, but says peaks in customer demand led to unusually high shortages of available aircraft. The need to charter additional aircraft to meet peak demand drove the company to a net loss of $32 million for the quarter.

Graham Warwick / Washington DC

Source: Flight International