While flying across the world is slowly becoming an expensive proposition, global private jet operator, NetJets, is keen to cash in on its niche – fractional aircraft ownership.
With an 800-aircraft fleet and operations in the US, Europe and the Middle East, NetJets´ shared or fractional ownership programme allows individuals an opportunity to own part of an aircraft based on the flying hours the customer requires each year, thereby avoiding the large cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining a private jet.
Asked if it is a good time to promote such a concept when the premium air travel, especially, is nosediving, NetJets Chairman and Co-founder, Vincent Santulli, told Emirates Business: "Flying is always expensive at the end of the day. But compared to buying your own aircraft or leasing, hiring a jet makes more sense in order to fly privately.
"This is definitely a good time to go up there and promote ourselves. We are here for the long term."
NetJets is further planning to step up operations in the Middle East. "The concept of fractional aircraft ownership is not at all mature in the Middle East. We are going to build a strong infrastructure to ensure success in the region as outbound private business jet travel from the Middle East is increasing every year," Santulli said.
He added that NetJets already has assets worth over 0 million in infrastructure in the region.
And with $ 1.5 billion worth of investment in its Middle East fleet, NetJets´ fleet on order comprises 60 jets including Gulfstream 450s and Hawker 750s, according to Santulli, with projected delivery of one aircraft per month starting October 2008.
The NetJets Middle East current fleet size includes 16 light, midsize and large cabin aircraft accommodating from six to 18 passengers with flight range of up to 4,300 nautical miles. The fleet includes jet aircraft such as Hawker, Falcon and Gulfstream.
"The challenge in the Middle East, however, is to work on going out and creating a noise and an overall awareness," Santulli said.
He said the fact that NetJets guarantees aircraft availability within 24 hours of a customer request besides being a suitable programme for those who fly between 50 and 500 hours per year, is a significant element. "Through fractional ownership a person can own part of an aircraft based on flying hours he requires per year. And that is the need of the hour," Santulli said.
Furthermore, the private jet operator is talking to some Middle East airlines to strike an alliance of sorts, according to Santulli. "Though we are talking to some of the Middle East airlines, talks are still in preliminary stages and hence we cannot reveal any further details," he said.
However, the private jet operator´s Middle East operations account for not even a fraction of its global revenues at present. As Santulli puts it: "NetJets´ Middle East revenue share is not even a dot on the radar screen right now."
NetJets, meanwhile, claims to command a 70 per cent market share of the US private aviation market and the largest one in Europe, with a combined base of 10,000 customers.