According to people in the industry, there is a seismic shift among the super-rich business elite towards the latter.
And that should be seen as a “wake-up call” to private-jet operators, according to Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet.
“Stop buying air planes, just buy the hours you need. It is part of a big trend towards a shared economy globally,” said Flohr. “It’s a wake-up call that needs to be very loud and clearly communicated: that it is a corporate waste to buy an air plane.”
VistaJet, headquartered in Malta, is one of the biggest private jet operators in the world. It has adopted the fairly novel approach of offering flights at hourly rates (from US$12,000 to US$17,000) in a market dominated by the “per-flight”and “fractional ownership” business models. In fractional ownership, people buy a share in a single aeroplane and enjoy access to it as and when needed.
The fractional segment is largely the domain of traditional operators like Warren Buffett’s NetJets, whereas the per-flight market is finding itself increasingly disrupted by a growing number of young, aggressive players – like VistaJet.
Flohr is so confident in the company’s approach that he is aiming to double the size of the firm in three years.
“There are a lot of people in this industry who don’t like us, but our clients like us,” he said.
His is not the only company to notice the big shift away from owning small corporate planes to chartering them.
Sino Jet, a Hong Kong and Beijing-based manager of 33 private jets, has seen its chartering business increase 20 per cent in the 12 months to June this year.
“More clients are realising that the cost of chartering a private jet is not too much higher than travelling first class, if you have a bigger group of people travelling together,” said Chris Wu, executive president of Sino Jet Beijing.