Flight Options is claiming to be the fastest-growing business-jet fractional ownership programme, having added over 200 customers in just six months. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company, which began operations in October 1998, ended its financial year on 31 March with 371 share owners and 76 aircraft.

Flight Options attributes its rapid growth to the fact that it sells shares in refurbished used aircraft, at prices 35% lower than competitors offering fractional ownership of new aircraft.

Wichita, Kansas-based industry watcher AvData Inc ranks Flight Options fourth among fractional ownership programmes, with 10% of the shares registered by the end of March. Executive Jet's NetJets programme remains the largest, with over 51% of the shares registered, followed by Bombardier's FlexJet scheme with 23% and Raytheon Aircraft's Travel Air subsidiary with 16%.

Flight Options says Raytheon's Beechjet 400A light business jet is proving its most popular aircraft, with 26 in service, followed by the mid-size Raytheon Hawker 800, with 19 in service. The company also operates nine Cessna Citation IIs, five Citation IIIs, six Dassault Falcon 50s and 11 Bombardier Challenger 601s.

The success of the major programmes is providing opportunities for new market entrants. Newport Beach, California-based XJets has accelerated plans for a fractional scheme serving the West Coast, citing interest from potential customers facing waiting lists for shares in larger programmes.

XJets had planned to finish raising funding before acquiring and refurbishing its initial fleet of eight used Citation IIs. Now XJets plans to put its first aircraft immediately after it closes the financing. "We can put the first aircraft into the air without refurbishing it because it's fairly new," says vice-president, marketing Jennifer Zalokar.

XJets is to begin operations by the end of June and expects to be fully subscribed by the end of the third quarter. Over its first year, the company intends to sell only 20 quarter shares in the initial eight Citations.

Source: Flight International