Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Finding the Right Fit for Flying Private

[ed. I usually keep a G450 or AS350 (AStar) on standby, but loan them out to friends occasionally.]

Carlos Urrutia's job is to fly a private jet. But when he is on board the Bombardier Challenger 300, which he has flown for tens of thousands of hours, he does much more than that.

He welcomes the passengers on board. He stows their luggage. He offers each passenger a drink before takeoff, anything from water to coffee to a cocktail that he will mix. If someone can’t figure out how to work one of the eight seats that swivel, or close the lavatory door, he’ll walk back while his co-pilot takes over and explain how it works.

Mr. Urrutia’s plane will also arrive at the destination faster and with less frustration than any first-class traveler on a commercial airline could dream of. It’s a nice way to travel — if you can afford the $10,000 an hour for the trip.

This is the world of private aviation. But even in that world, there are degrees of convenience, comfort and, to many, excess.

“Sometimes people don’t know the difference between their needs and wants,” said Kevin O’Leary, president of Jet Advisors, which offers advice on private aviation options. “We help them analyze their need first and then look at services.”

Those services break down into four categories: chartering a jet, buying a set number of hours in a jet program, getting a fractional interest in a plane or putting down tens of millions of dollars for your own aircraft. Each one has its defenders and its detractors. But Mr. O’Leary says what matters the most is how a private plane is to be used, whether by just one person or several executives.

Chartering a jet works best for those who can plan their trips in advance and are less concerned with the type of aircraft they get.

“Charter is the most flexible,” said Mark H. Lefever, president and chief operating officer of Avjet, a broker and adviser. “You have no monthly bills. You make up how much you want to spend per year and how many trips you want to do.”

He said the cost of a trip from Los Angeles, where Avjet is based, to Martha’s Vineyard would depend on how many people are flying and the level of comfort desired. A smaller Gulfstream G150 would cost about $35,000 one way, while the larger, newer Gulfstream G450 would be $55,000. (...)

The next step up is an hours program, commonly called a jet card. VistaJet allows people to fix their costs by buying the hours they think they’ll need, and adding more if they go over.

The company has 50 Bombardier jets in two sizes — one for flights up to a cross-country trip and another for trans-Atlantic travel — and it is trying to appeal to a global audience with a service branded like a luxury hotel, said Thomas Flohr, VistaJet’s chairman and founder.

For the longer-range Bombardier Global, the cost is $16,000 an hour, meaning 200 hours a year would cost $3.2 million. Over five years, that works out to be about as much as the upfront cost of a quarter share of the same plane, which would be about $14 million, but any share program has additional membership fees and fuel surcharges.

by Paul Sulivan, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Christopher Capozziello