Bombardier Flexjet is seeking to relaunch a fractional ownership programme in Europe seven years after it pulled the plug on its first venture.
The original scheme was withdrawn after two years because of hefty financial losses brought about by a cautious European market reluctant to accept fractional ownership as an alternative to traditional charters and outright ownership.
Flexjet Europe restructured, and with the help of third-party charter operators, formed an upscale block charter company that it later renamed Skyjet International. The company was sold to Austrian VIP charter company VistaJet in July.
"We are looking at European fractional ownership again - we are ready for it now, but we have to figure out the optimal way of implementing it," says Fred Reid, the recently appointed president of Flexjet and Skyjet USA.
He says Europe now has a good appetite for fractional ownership and applauds NetJets for "laying the groundwork" and sticking with its programme - introduced in 1996 - at huge expense and in the face of overwhelming industry and consumer scepticism.
"We want to re-enter the fractional ownership market in Europe. The continent's geographic diversification, coupled with the growth and widespread acceptance of business aviation across the region, shows there is a market for it," he says.
"We started our programme in the last century and exited early because the timing was wrong. Flexjet is a different animal than 10 years ago. We have gained a lot of experience through the US programme and our core product is so much better now," Reid adds.
He dismisses the suggestion that Flexjet will cannibalise the fractional market for its largest European customer Jet Republic. The Lisbon-based start-up has placed orders and options for 110 Bombardier Learjet 60XRs and plans to begin fractional operations in September 2009 following delivery of the first midsize jet. "Our parent company is a manufacturer and their job is to sell aircraft," Reid says.
Reid says the European market is large enough to absorb another two fractional ownership players. "Competition will be good for this market," he adds.
Source: Flight International