Programme includes introductory level scheme to allow customers to assess requirement without overspending

Jet Aviation has entered the block charter-based jet card market with the US launch of its Privileged Travel programme. The move comes as established players seek to widen their share of the fastest-growing sector of business aviation.

Jet Aviation's programme differs from competitors' concepts by offering an introductory-level card that entitles the user to 10h of occupied flight time. The card allows customers to access their level of use while making a limited financial commitment, says Jet Aviation. Once clients determine how much flight time they need they can apply the unused balance to the company's 25h and 100h cards.

Jet Aviation uses around 160 aircraft from its charter and management fleet to support the programme. When a customer books a flight, Jet Aviation says it deducts the value of the occupied hours, depending on aircraft type, from the card's balance. The cards carry no expiry date and the balance of one card can be transferred to another.

Jet Aviation is hoping to emulate the success of other jet-card charter programmes in the USA, which have expanded the business aviation customer base for both manufacturers and operators. Cessna CitationShares founder and chief executive Steve O'Neil says the success of the 25h Vector Card, launched in July, has been "phenomenal" with nearly 100 cards sold to date, a renewal rate of around 70% and a conversion to fractional rate of 30%. "We don't want to grow the programme too quickly," O'Neil says. He suggests that without a large business aircraft fleet to support the growing demand from card and fractional customers, the quality of service could be compromised if growth is not well managed. "We have to strike a balance between a respectable level of growth and providing an excellent service to our customers." CitationShares, a 75:25 joint venture between Cessna and Tag Aviation, operates a fleet of 52 business jets. A further four aircraft, including the first Citation Sovereign, will be added to the fleet by the end of the year and a further 25 aircraft next year, including the first Cessna Citation CJ3 light jet.

Flight Options, which also launched its Jet Pass card membership programme in July, says the scheme has grown more rapidly than expected, although the Cleveland Ohio-based company declines to release numbers. "We wanted a 10% market share within six months," said the company's chief executive John Nahill at the show. "But we have achieved that in our first 60 days." The company operates a fleet of more than 215 aircraft, and claims to have the world's largest fleets of Raytheon King Airs, Beechjet 400As and Hawker 800s.

Sentient Jet, which pioneered the block charter-based jet card concept, said at the show that it has sold over 800 cards since it began five years ago. The Norwood, Massachusetts-based company, the second-largest card provider after Marquis Jet Partners, expects to exceed 1,000 card sales within weeks.

Bombardier Flexjet says it has had a disappointing start with its card programme launched last year with operating partner Delta Air Elite, and is now sharing the marketing effort to drum up sal

Source: Flight International