Lithuanian operator KlasJet will boost its VIP airliner fleet this year as three refurbished Boeing 737-500s – acquired in 2018 – enter service over the coming months. The Vilnius-based operator is also preparing to acquire four more refurbished narrowbodies in 2019.
The rapid expansion signals a new stage of development for the high-end charter provider and comes against a backdrop of booming global demand for large group transport.
KlasJet currently operates four aircraft – a 737-500, Bombardier CRJ200, Challenger 850 and a Textron Aviation Hawker 800XP. The line-up provides ad hoc charter and bespoke travel services to professional sports teams, business travellers and government officials in Europe and the Middle East.
The additional 737s – which are being revamped by KlasJet's maintenance, repair and overhaul sister company FL Technics – will enable the operator to capture a greater share of the international bespoke travel market, it says, particularly in the growing area of meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE).
The initial example is scheduled to enter service before the end of March, says KlasJet, and is equipped with a high-end, 52-seat business-class layout. The second 737 will join the line-up in the second quarter, featuring an interchangeable interior with seating for 68 or 102 passengers. The third example, equipped with 120 economy-class seats, will begin operations before the end of the year.
KlasJet's confidence in the bespoke group transport market is shared by international aircraft broker Air Partner.
The UK-headquartered company describes its performance in 2018 as "fruitful", with "strong" demand for sport bookings – particularly during the FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia last year – and MICE activity up by 20% year on year.
Large groups are chartering VIP airliners in increasing numbers, says Air Partner trading manager for group charter UK Jon Cavalli, adding: “We expect this trend to grow steadily in 2019 and beyond,” as the fleet continues to grow.
He predicts an "extremely positive" outlook for the year ahead, with demand driven by major sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup in Japan, ongoing growth from sports teams for pre-season training tours, and a continued desire from VIP travellers for new experiences and unusual destinations.