That “poster boy” stigma still sticks today despite mounting evidence that business aviation is an irrefutably smart idea. It saves valuable time, enabling executives to travel to as many as four cities in a single day rather than wasting time on the ground at large airports and being hobbled by the need to navigate rigid airline schedules and booking procedures. Additionally, colleagues can discuss proprietary information en route without fear of eavesdroppers, communicate with their companies along the way and fly directly into communities commercial airlines don’t service directly. Often, these business flyers also need to safely transport items too sensitive for a cargo hold and too large for an overhead compartment.
All things considered, the argument for using business aviation is simple: “The larger the scale of your business, the more likely it is that your executives have to be all over the country or on multiple continents in a matter of days or weeks,” says Doug Gollan, editor-in-chief of Elite Traveler. “Your company may have business in New York and London, a factory in France and meetings in Germany, or somewhere on the African subcontinent. In almost all cases, it’s easier for executives to fly by private jet.”
The Right Wings
Lots of variables, from how often you fly to where you travel most regularly, factor into which of the many levels of service and layers of aviation options to choose. “Whole ownership of a plane makes sense as a company exceeds 400 hours of flying time per year, whereas fractional ownership typically is somewhere between 50-400 hours,” says Gollan. Fractional ownership is exactly what it sounds like—owners buy a “share” of a plane that entitles them to access (50–400 hours annually or a certain number of days of the year, depending on share size) to that plane, or a similar plane in the operator’s fleet, with as little as four hours’ notice. With a third option, jet cards, buyers purchase a block of 25 hours of flight time on a specified type of aircraft.
“Jet cards are good for those who need between 10 and 25 hours,” says Gollan, who adds that some more frequent travelers choose to restock their 25-hour card because fractional ownership typically requires a commitment of five years. “It’s the difference between renting versus owning,” he says. (See sidebar, “Which Wings Are Right for You?”) “For many, jet cards can be great because you lock in a price and the provider; they’re flexible enough to go wherever you
want and they give you guaranteed access to a certain class of jet within 6-24 hours,” says Gollan. Ultimately, however, it boils down to what your company’s mission is, where you need to go to conduct business, how frequently you need to go there and how many people will be traveling with you.
Shy About the Friendliest Skies
Many CEOs keep quiet about their reliance on business aviation (as opposed to commercial air travel) for fear of inviting the wrath of uninformed critics. However, the number and sophistication of available business aviation services and solutions continues to increase, and the sector itself is creating jobs in all 50 states and enjoying a healthy sense of optimism as its growth rises in direct correlation with the country’s strengthening economy. “There’s no doubt that there are critics of the private aviation industry,” says Jordan Hansell, chairman and CEO of NetJets.