Increasing demand from wealthy individuals for the Bombardier Skyjet International fixed-rate block charter program has prompted the company to experiment with a new option called Jet Membership Light. This option–which gives customers 25 hours in light jets for $135,000 (€112,500)–is currently available only in Europe.
As demand for commercial air travel increases in India, business aviation entrepreneurs are clamoring for position in a classic chicken-and-egg scenario. Those who will be successful must make an early entry into the market, but they are severely limited in their ability to operate because the infrastructure to support general aviation is still being developed.
The unionized NetJets pilots, represented by IBT Local 1108, on November 21 overwhelmingly ratified the tentative labor agreement signed on October 8, nearly four years after the pilots’ contract became amendable. Of the valid 1,924 ballots received (about 91 percent of the NetJets pilot workforce), 1,616 (84 percent) voted for the work contract and 308 (16 percent) opposed it.
The late Randy Kennedy, who wrote a chapter or two in the book for corporate pilots in the U.S., once said, “Don’t tell anyone, but you can teach monkeys to fly these airplanes safely. The hard part of this job is acquiring the correct service mentality.”
Contract talks between NetJets management and pilots broke down once again on September 12, three days shy of a scheduled 30-day marathon bargaining session. The pilots’ union negotiation committee said it walked out of the talks “because the company has continuously failed to respond to the union’s position regarding the pilot group’s bargaining thresholds,” namely salary expectations.
In the first eight months of this year, the top five fractional operators hired more pilots than they did in all of last year, according to aviation job placement firm AIR of Atlanta. NetJets, Flight Options, Flexjet, CitationShares and Avantair hired 498 pilots through August this year versus 482 for all of last year.
Fractional ownership provider NetJets Europe has launched a dedicated operation for the Scottish market. Through NetJets Scotland the company will offer flights to and from 17 Scottish airports, including the Royal Air Force bases at Lossiemouth, Leuchars (close to the exclusive St. Andrews golf course) and Kinloss.
A decade ago, any discussion of the private aircraft market in the Middle East was generally limited to members of the royal families as customers, and the airplanes were for the most part executive/VIP versions of widebody airliners.
The number of business jets registered in Middle Eastern countries has grown by about one-fifth over the past 10 years. By the standards of other still-emerging markets such as Europe (which had 45-percent growth during the same period), the Middle East’s 18-percent fleet growth is not exactly earth-shattering.
Three of the five Flight Options pilots who have been trying to organize the fractional pilot group under IBT Local 1108 (the same union that represents NetJets pilots), told AIN that they soon expect to have enough organizing cards to call a vote. They claim to have 400 organizing cards from Flight Options pilots, though they need 550–or 65 percent of the 848-strong pilot workforce–to call a vote.