Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

On-line charter reservation company FlightTime.com hopes to sign up to six multinational companies to its "virtual private airline" programme within the next six months. By then, the company believes the fledgling programme will represent around 50% of its overall business activity.

FlightTime.com chief executive Jane McBride says: "We hope to emulate the success of the Proctor and Gamble [P&G] model, which in March became our first client, utilising a customised Airbus A320-200, configured with 56 first class seats." The company operates four times times a week between Cincinnati and Brussels.

FlightTime is holding talks with manufacturers, including Airbus Industrie and Boeing, with a view to leasing aircraft such as the A319CJ, A320, Boeing Business Jet and 757. FlightTime is a "nucleus" for the operator and customer, says McBride. "We essentially manage the customer's travel arrangements, organising everything from flight planning to limousine hire."

Such is the demand for the "private shuttles" that FlightTime's "private airline" operations could account for up to 24 aircraft in the long term, says McBride. "There is no limit to the demand for this type of service," she adds.

Meanwhile, a rival Internet business aircraft charter reservation service dubbed eJets.com has been set up in the USA, targeted at companies and high net worth people. The service gives customers a choice of information on-line including aircraft and pricing. "The Internet is changing the way people organise their travel arrangements, offering them a quick and easy alternative," says eJets.com president Rick Johnson.

The company has invested $2 million in its initial round of funding "to get the programme off the ground". A further $5 to $10 million will be injected into the programme "within four months" to finance further computer software upgrades and advertising and marketing campaigns. Johnson says: "We are concentrating on the US market initially, but our future lies in the international marketplace, notably in Europe."

Source: Flight International