US fractional ownership company Flexjet has expanded its business aircraft fleet with the addition of its first Embraer Legacy 450.
The delivery of the mid-light type on 15 August comes hot on the heels of the company’s acquisition of European charter and management company FlairJet earlier in the month, paving the way for Flexjet to launch commercial services in Europe.
The Legacy 450 is part of a May 2015 order with Embraer for an unspecified number of aircraft. The deal also includes the midsize Legacy 500, of which Flexjet has four in service. The Cleveland, Ohio-based operator plans to take delivery of another five Legacy 450s by the end of 2016.
“The Legacy 450 will become the mainstay of our midsize programme [along with the Legacy 500], which has been growing rapidly in response to increased demand for aircraft of this size,” says Flexjet chief executive Michael Silvestro. The pair fit into the company’s portfolio between the superlight Bombardier Learjet 75LXi and the super-midsize Challenger 350.
“Our fleet expansion has been very strong over the past 24 months,” Silvestro says; 52 new aircraft will have been added to the programme in the two years ending 31 December, he says.
Flexjet now has its sights on international expansion and the deal for FlairJet, acquired from Marshall Aerospace on 3 August for an undisclosed sum, will provide a springboard for this growth. “FlairJet is a perfect cultural fit for the company and provides the right platform to layer our business going forward,” says Ray Jones, who is leading the company’s international development effort.
Birmingham-based FlairJet – which will assume the Flexjet branding – manages seven privately owned light and entry-level business jets, including a Cessna Citation XLS, a Mustang and a Learjet 40, and Flexjet plans to build this fleet to support its business. “By the end of the year we also hope to start introducing the first Nextant 400XTis into the fleet,” Jones says.
Eight of the remanufactured light business jets are scheduled for delivery by 1 June 2017, he adds, “but there is a potential to add up to 15”. The 400XTis will be sourced from Flexjet’s US fleet of 21 aircraft and will be maintained by Marshall. Both Flexjet and Nextant are owned by Cleveland-based Directional Aviation.
The new service will be aimed at Flexjet’s North American customers wishing to travel within Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). It will also be offered to local clients with the aircraft available on an ad hoc charter basis. “We are in the process of developing additional programmes that are in step with the market demands of the EMEA region,” Jones says.
He admits that Flexjet’s effort to break into the highly competitive and fragile business aircraft charter market will be a challenge, but is cautiously optimistic of success. “We are realistic,” he says. “We are not pretending that it is anything other than a difficult market out there, and it is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.”
However, he argues that in Flexjet’s favour “we already have an installed client base, through FlairJet and a number of established [North American] customers who want to fly with us outside the region, so we are hopeful that it can be a success”.
Source: Flight International