Ljubljana, Slovenia-based business aircraft management and charter firm Elit’Avia appointed Puja Mahajan as its new COO. In her new role, Mahajan will manage Elit’Avia’s growth strategy, ensure safety across all operations and “deliver top-notch client services.” Most recently, she was director of business aircraft flight operations at Bombardier Aerospace, where, among other accomplishments, she ran the award-winning Safety Standdown Program for five years.
Charter and Fractional » Charter
News and issues concerning the aviation charter industry and markets, including company announcements, regulations, new developments and labor issues.
VLJ activity has rebounded strongly in Europe, at the expense of traditional light jets such as Citations and Learjets, according to speakers at the annual Business Aircraft Europe event, held at London Biggin Hill Airport on September 11 and 12. The event grew out of Light Jets Europe, which started in 2007 but was renamed after the VLJ (very light jet) sector nosedived with much of the rest of the industry when the global financial crisis hit five years ago.
Hangar8 expects to open a new FBO on Jeresy, one of the Channel Islands, in early 2015. According to the UK-based group’s CEO, Dustin Dryden, the year-long construction project is slated to begin in the offshore tax shelter by the start of next year. Dryden indicated that Hangar8 is exploring plans to expand further into the FBO sector. “We see this as a way to improve the facilities and the service we receive ourselves [as an aircraft operator] and we may buy our way into existing [ground handling] markets where established skills and facilities are available,” he explained.
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) yesterday that would regulate “air charter brokers.” The agency says it is undertaking this action “to protect consumers, ensuring that consumers of single-entity charter air transportation have adequate information about the operator of chartered aircraft and enumerating certain prohibited unfair and deceptive practices by air taxis and commuter air carriers.”
Over the half dozen years since the unwelcome intervention of the 2008/09 financial crisis, the aircraft management and charter market has not been a business for the faint-hearted. Tough trading conditions have served up challenges and opportunities in equal measure, laying the groundwork for the classic “survival of the fittest” story line in which the stronger players are able to turn their struggling competitors’ misfortune to their advantage.
Private aircraft catering is trapped in the 1990s, according to VistaJet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr. His frustration has prompted him to forge an alliance with high-end restaurant group Nobu to offer a special menu for VistaJet clients. For now, the Nobu meals are available only on flights out of London, Dubai and Los Angeles, but the operator is working to add the option for other cities where Nobu has restaurants.
“We’re looking at what is happening in the rest of the world so that we can bring it to aviation,” said Flohr. “This is what makes my life exciting.”
VistaJet’s audacious deal with Bombardier to buy up to 142 new aircraft raised some industry eyebrows last year, in part because it seemed to signal a massive escalation of a fleet that currently consists of just 37 jets. But fleet replacement is a big part of a company business plan founded on operating only young aircraft still covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. The average age of its aircraft now stands at less than two years.
VistaJet is moving into the U.S. private lift market with a new alliance with Jet Aviation Flight Services, which is to operate a fleet of 12 Bombardier Globals on its behalf. The Europe-based group has made clear its intention to target former and current fractional ownership clients in building its North American client base. Under the terms of an agreement announced on September 6 in New York City, the Europe-based private flight provider also is teaming with start-up membership-based program Wheels Up to market VistaJet’s Flight Solutions Program (FSP) to customers in the U.S.
Sentient Jet’s private jet travel and jet card sales continue to grow year-over-year, reaching levels not seen since before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the company said yesterday. “We started to see a sharp increase in jet card sales at the beginning of the year–a trend that continued throughout the summer,” said Sentient Jet president Andrew Collins.
Membership-based private aviation start-up Wheels Up unveiled the exterior livery for its planned fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprops. France’s Happy Design Studio devised the blue-and-white paint scheme for the New York-based company in just 15 days. Wheels Up placed firm orders and options on 105 King Air 350is last month and expects deliveries to begin next month.