Navigating the Private Aviation Industry

For many business executives today, flying commercial no longer makes sense. There are only so many hours in a week and the demands on a CEO’s time are great. Which is why more and more business leaders are turning to private aviation as a critical way to maximize their hours. Potential flight delays, long security lines, cancellations, travel to and from the nearest airport all add up to significant time lost in transit.

“Private aviation is all about control of your schedule, doing things on your terms versus being subjected to commercial, which is not on your terms,” says Kenny Dichter, Founder & CEO of Wheels Up, an affiliate partner of YPO. “We sell the most important commodity that any individual has: time.”

The experience of flying privately offers flexibility, convenience, predictability and access but most importantly it makes the most of passengers’ time. Passengers can easily book a flight to accommodate their schedule, arrive closer to takeoff, skip security lines altogether and land a shorter distance from their final destination without any baggage claim or lost baggage delays.

Exploring ways to fly private

Private air travel is no longer just for those who own their own planes. Today, passengers who want to fly point-to-point can opt between aircraft ownership, a jet card, the charter market and most recently, membership-based companies. All of these options tap into the business travelers’ needs and help them get to wherever business takes them more efficiently.

Jet cards

Newer companies are exploring ways to cater to the demand for private aviation beyond the traditional models of full or fractional ownership and charter. Jet cards, for example, offer prepaid, fixed rates for a set number of flight hours. Membership companies present an alternative that significantly decreases the upfront costs of flying privately — without sacrificing convenience or comfort. After the initiation fee, members pay fixed rates only for time flown.

“What if it was as easy to book a private airplane as it was to book an Uber or an Airbnb?” says Dichter. “We’re trying to take all of the friction out of the private aviation space and create a revolutionary new membership model that lowers the cost of entry.”

Leveraging the sharing economy

With the newer solutions, passengers have access rather than an asset. They don’t have to risk capital on the product. The costs are related to the service, and as a result, the barrier for entry is much lower. Companies are also leveraging technology to offer ridesharing, which further reduces the cost of flying private. These are particularly attractive options for those accustomed to the sharing economy. Right from their phones, passengers can arrange to hop on an empty-leg flight, coordinate a shared flight or take a private shuttle to a popular destination at a fraction of the cost.

“We sell the most important commodity that any individual has: time.” Kenny Dichter, Founder & CEO of Wheels Up

What to consider in private aviation

Every program varies in terms of pricing, access, aircraft and standards. It’s important to find the one that best suits your specific needs. For those shopping for private aviation, Dichter suggests asking the following questions:

  • What are the company’s safety standards? Ensuring the safety of you and your passengers is the top priority. Ask about the safety protocol, record and team. “It starts with hiring the right people,” says Dichter. “There’s no substitute for experience.”
  • What are the pilot training and qualification requirements? You want captain-qualified pilots who are required to have FAA Airline Transport Pilot and First-Class Medical Certificates, the highest qualifications available, and to undergo simulator training every year. And the more flight time, the better: Over 5,000 hours significantly exceeds FAA requirements and most pilots’ experience.
  • Who operates the aircraft? Do your due diligence on the operator’s history. Research if they have consistently exceeded FAA requirements and which third-party audit verifications (ARG/US, Wyvern, IS-BAO, ACSF) they’ve earned. It’s important to check if they fly off fleet, Dichter says, “as conventional charter brokers often source planes from operators with inconsistent and less stringent safety protocols.”
  • What’s the average age of the planes? The age of a plane is a legitimate concern. Is it flight worthy? Do you see signs of wear and tear? In the regular charter market, Dichter says, passengers are often placed on older aircraft that may not be completely reliable.
  • Are flight costs predictable and consistent? Understand whether the rates are fixed or variable and if they are subject to any hidden fees. Dichter cautions that you may pay high surcharges at times through a jet card and highly variable rates for inconsistent aircraft — without any guarantee of availability — through some charter brokers.
  • Can the planes access smaller and remote airports? One of the benefits of private aviation is access to locations where commercial carriers can’t reach. Many private aviation providers utilize jets, which have a lot of advantages, including spacious cabins and long ranges. However most, including eight-passenger models, are unable to fly in and out of smaller private airports with short runways.
  • How much flexibility does the solution afford you? Let’s face it, when flying private you want to be able to fly how and when it suits you. Jet card programs often lock you into long-term contracts and require you to purchase a minimum number of hours up front. And if you don’t use those hours within a certain timeframe, you lose them. Jet card programs as well as charter operators also typically have strict cancellation policies at high-demand times.
“Private aviation is all about control of your schedule, doing things on your terms versus being subjected to commercial, which is not on your terms.”

Through YPO’s affiliate partnership with Wheels Up, YPO members can join as a Wheels Up Core or Business Member to receive guaranteed access to a members-only fleet up to 365 days a year and with as little as 24-hour notice and exclusive benefits. YPO members can also join Wheels Up as a Connect Member, for unlimited access to the Wheels Up Charter Marketplace, as well as exclusive benefits. Visit Wheels Up for more information.

Wheels Up does not operate aircraft; FAA licensed and DOT registered air carriers participating in the program exercise full operational control of all flights offered by or arranged through Wheels Up. All aircraft owned or leased by Wheels Up are leased to the operating air carrier and are operated exclusively by that air carrier.

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