NetJets Europe has slashed 6% of its workforce - around 100 employees - as part of a restructuring effort by the continent's largest business jet operator and only fractional ownership provider. The company has seen losses mount during the economic downturn.

The job cuts coincide with the abrupt resignation of Bill Kelly as chief executive and the appointment of Eric Connor, senior vice-president and chief procurement officer of US energy company MidAmerican, as his replacement.

This latest round of cuts are focused on the NetJets operations centre and European headquarters in Lisbon that has been hit hard by the drop in hours flown by NetJets customers over the past 12 months.

These losses also arrive on the back of 300 job cuts at NetJets' US-based sister company in September - equivalent to 5% of the workforce - as part of a similar initiative led by new chief executive David Sokol. NetJets Europe also introduced in April a voluntary redundancy programmes for its pilots in an effort to slash 60,000 excess duty hours.

"Our flight hours are down by one-fifth compared with last year," says Net Jets Europe chief operating officer Robert Dranitzke. "Customers have cut back across our fractional and card programmes in an effort to reduce their expenditure, so consequently our fleet is underutilised," he says.

The Berkshire Hathaway-backed company plans to take delivery of fewer than 10 aircraft this year and will accelerate disposal of aircraft types between ten and 14-years-old. These represent a small percentage of its 160-strong fleet, which has an average age of around four years.

Dranitzke says the current economic environment is spawning interest in secondhand fractional shares. "The product is selling well because it is so well priced at the moment," he says. "The desire to fly privately hasn't gone away during the downturn. Customers are simply looking for other [cheaper] way to do it."

Source: Flight International