The Enlightened Business Traveler
A Game Changer for the Recovering Economy
Written and Produced by
Courting new business and keeping existing customers is a costly challenge in any economy. Yet some companies have defied the downturn, positioning themselves for a recovery and becoming more productive in the process. They are using business aircraft to free themselves from commercial airline constraints, cash in on domestic and global market opportunities, and realize greater value than ever before.
“It is a terrific working tool,” says The Stewart Organization’s chairman, Walter Stewart. His company has a Flexjet Learjet 40 and Challenger 300 business aircraft at the ready, which made it feasible for him to expand far beyond the company’s original Birmingham, Ala., customer base. “Travel is essential for us to compete and to expand,” says Stewart.
Vital Revenue Generator
Business aviation fliers—whether they own jet cards, fractional shares or whole aircraft—recognize the game-changing benefits business aircraft access provides. To land deals, land closer to your customer. That’s the attitude of many business people who are convinced that business aviation gives them an undeniable advantage. Business aviation can convert hours of travel time into hours in front of customers. It allows companies to pursue opportunities in smaller, untapped markets far from commercial airline hubs.
It’s not a luxury or a liability, but rather a vital asset and revenue generator. “While other companies may be retrenching, we see tremendous competitive advantage with our business aircraft,” says Stewart. “Being there face-to-face ahead of the competition is crucial.”
Having the ability to bring customers to your company’s home turf is also extremely valuable. “We use our plane to pick up clients and bring them to our office,” says David Charles, Sr., president of Satellite Receivers, Ltd./Cash Depot, which is based in Green Bay, Wis. The company, which owns an Avantair Avanti fractional share, sells and services ATMs nationwide. Bringing customers to its facility has been critical to closing deals.
Phillip Swan, CEO of Kirkland, Wash.-based EZ Grill, adds, “When you have to be in places like Ponca City, Oklahoma; Bentonville, Arkansas; Morrisville, North Carolina; and Woonsocket, Rhode Island; you had better not depend on the airlines to get you there. If it’s a matter of getting the contract or losing it, then the higher cost of business aviation represents tremendous value,” says Swan, whose Flexjet Learjet 40 helps fire up the profits.
FLIGHT LOG >> The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company
Director of Flight Operations Matthew Clifford
Business: 143-year-old company, global market leader in lawn and garden products
Travel Need: Meet with vendors and customers across the U.S. and Europe
Aircraft of Choice: Dassault Falcon 50EX and Dassault Falcon 900
Based in Marysville, Ohio, the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company uses a Dassault Falcon 50 EX and Falcon 900 to sow seeds for success around the globe. “These are business tools, just as important to us as a lawn spreader or a delivery truck,” says Matthew Clifford, director of flight operations. Company growth is directly attributable to use of the aircraft, he says. “With an hour’s notice, we can have either airplane headed to any of thousands of locations coast to coast, nonstop.”
It’s not unusual to make as many as five customer or supplier visits in a day, and those schedules can change on a moment’s notice. “We save our people time and enhance their productivity,” says Clifford. With functional, spacious, secure cabins and satellite communications and Wi-Fi Internet capability, the Falcons become airborne conference rooms. “They are equally useful for client meetings on the ground,” he adds. An unmatched advantage is the Falcons’ ability to use shorter runways and still carry enough fuel for nonstop cross-country or transatlantic flights, and the three-engine design is an added safety feature he likes, especially for overseas travel.
These business executives are definitely on the right flight path. Recent studies released by NEXA Advisors LLC show that both large S&P 500 companies and the S&P SmallCap 600 small and midsize companies achieved greater success by using business aircraft—even during the worst financial recession in recent memory—than those that do not use business aircraft. “This study reveals that use of a business airplane is a sign of a well-managed company, regardless of its size,” says Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association. “The level of productivity, flexibility and efficiency business aviation provides allows companies of all sizes to remain productive despite the tough economy. This latest study confirms it.”
So what does it take to create revenue-generating, game-changing strategies that allow you, too, to fly circles around the competition? For many, the first step is seeing past the limitations of commercial travel. Read on and learn what these forward-thinking companies have discovered about highly customizable airborne options that put you face-to-face with customers, prospects and vendors more often and more nimbly than ever before. Follow their guidance and your business will be taking off well before the competition arrives.
FLIGHT LOG >> XOJET
CEO Blair LaCorte
Business: Innovator in air charter
Travel Need: Competitively priced, safe and efficient air charter service to 5,000 locations nationwide
Aircraft of Choice: Bombardier Challenger 300 and Cessna Citation X
XOJET, unique in business aviation, owns all of its young fleet outright and offers top-ranking charter using only two aircraft types: the Bombardier Challenger 300 and Cessna Citation X, selected for efficiency, speed, comfort and consumer appeal. XOJET’s hybrid business model combines the benefits of private jet membership and on-demand charter service with the consistency of fractional ownership. While one can fly to or from anywhere at on-demand charter rates, XOJET pioneered discounted fixed-rate charter based on 88 predefined coast-to-coast routes, as well as a fly-anywhere membership program.
CEO Blair LaCorte’s aircraft choices are as attractive as his business plan. The Citation X is one of the world’s fastest civilian aircraft, and the Challenger 300 offers superior reliability, maintainability and fuel efficiency, plus a spacious, wide cabin and the ability to land at smaller airports. Each XOJET Challenger is identically equipped with unique noise-dampening features, built-in surround sound, serene interior décor and Aircell Wi-Fi. It’s a huge bonus for travelers who count on saving time and money while gaining productivity in the air, says LaCorte.
While whole aircraft ownership has strong appeal, fractional and jet card owners gain the ability to:
Jet cards grew in popularity during the economic downturn as buyers sought relief from the financial risk and long-term commitment associated with fractional ownership. That’s all changed. A leading indicator of the market’s recovery is renewed interest in fractional ownership. The resurgence is attributed to availability of attractive tax and bonus depreciation benefits, as well as rising aircraft value.
Now, new hybrid programs—which lower barriers to entry and combine the most appealing fractional and jet card benefits—are gaining buyer attention. In addition, aircraft offering new technologies and improved operating efficiency are igniting interest from business travelers with pared-down budgets who are aggressively exploring new market opportunities.
The latest aircraft offer fully connected cabins with wireless high-speed Internet and other high-tech amenities that transform travel time into highly productive airborne office time. That means not only can you save time and money getting there, but you can use time in the air as productively as you can on the ground.
Owned by Berkshire Hathaway, NetJets invented fractional ownership and took it to new heights with the largest and most diverse fleet. Recently, NetJets acquired Marquis Jet, which launched the jet card revolution by providing NetJets’ quality and service 25 hours at a time.
NetJets operates the only fractional ownership fleet in Europe and has an affiliation with the NetJets Middle East Program. Underscoring the increased demand for ultra-long-range global travel, NetJets recently announced its first-ever purchase of Bombardier aircraft, including the Bombardier Global 5000, Global Express XRS Vision, Global 7000 and Global 8000. These new ultra-long-range jets will join a fleet that includes Cessna, Hawker-Beechcraft, Dassault and Gulfstream aircraft. Last October, NetJets announced plans to add Embraer Phenom 300 Platinum Edition aircraft to its light-jet fleet. In addition, the company is retrofitting more than 250 aircraft with Aircell high-speed wireless Internet service, a feature that all new models will offer as a standard.
FLIGHT LOG >> Homesteaders Life Company
CEO and Chairman Graham Cook
Business: 105-year-old company, national leader in pre-need funeral funding
Travel Need: Flying funeral home owners from 37 states to its Iowa headquarters
Aircraft of Choice: NetJets—Cessna Citation Encore
“We work with funeral homes all over the country, and lots of times they’re in smaller communities that are as hard to get to as Des Moines,” says Graham Cook, Homesteaders Life CEO and chairman. Nine years ago, Cook turned to NetJets for the perfect solution. Now he brings busy funeral home directors to his company headquarters and returns them home the same day. “Meeting face-to-face is totally invaluable,” says Cook. “The airplane is definitely a tremendous closing tool. To get someone here for a half-day visit traveling commercially is a two-day marathon. But if they can be here and back quickly, it makes the trip practical.”
He can also use two aircraft simultaneously, which he did recently for overlapping customer visits. “It’s about leveraging that capability to build your business. It’s helping us build relationships. You can’t do that with e-mail,” he says. It’s worked so well, in fact, that Cook increased his hours with NetJets this year.
Flexjet, owned by Bombardier, experienced a 45% increase in new business year over year as of February 2011, which Fred Reid, Flexjet president, feels is an indication of sustained economic recovery. Fractional ownership experienced the biggest growth during this time. Fractional and jet card owners, he says, are finding exceptional value in Flexjet’s range of Bombardier aircraft, including the Learjet 40XR, 45XR and 60XR; the super-midsize Challenger 300; and the intercontinental-range Challenger 605. Flexjet also offers a complete spectrum of business jet solutions ranging from on-demand charter and the Flexjet 25 Jet Card, operated by Jet Solutions, LLC, to fractional ownership and whole aircraft ownership, combined with management. In addition, Flexjet will be the launch customer for Bombardier’s all-new Learjet 85.
Other Flexjet offerings include:
FLIGHT LOG >> EZ Grill
CEO and Cofounder Phillip Swan
Business: Environmentally responsible, economy-priced outdoor cooking products
Travel Need: Reaching retail outlets in small towns nationwide
Aircraft of Choice: Flexjet Learjet 40 and 45
EZ Grill products make backyard barbecues convenient, but a grueling schedule of meetings with retailers was anything but convenient for CEO and cofounder Phillip Swan. “We do business nationwide, often in difficult-to-reach places,” says Swan. “Now I can get to 11 meetings in two and a half days, not the two and a half weeks it would take flying commercially.”
To make a success of a start-from-scratch company, Swan chose a Flexjet 25 Jet Card to light the fire. It is a key ingredient in Swan’s success. Choosing either the Learjet 40 or Learjet 45, depending on the trip length and number of people traveling, he can fly nonstop, typically landing minutes from his destination while gaining enormous flexibility. “It means maximum optimization of your time, because you’re on your own schedule,” he says. “If we can close a half-million-dollar deal and it costs perhaps $15,000 to get there, is that a return on investment? I think it is.”
Flight Options’ focus on quality and value has grown to encompass a new and wide range of fractional ownership and jet card choices, according to CEO Michael J. Silvestro. Flight Options offers a mix of new models and top-quality, pre-owned, fully refurbished and modified older aircraft. New aircraft include the Embraer Phenom 300, which brings greater speed and range to the light-jet category, and the large-cabin, midsize-priced Embraer Legacy. Silvestro points out that Flight Options is replacing the older Hawker 400s in the fleet with the newly modified Hawker 400NT, which features latest-generation avionics and new Williams engines. Customers like Weather Central, LP, Founder and CEO Terry Kelly like the idea that the new model will use less fuel, have longer range and reduce his operating costs.
Newly modified Cessna Citation Xs will bring greater performance at lower cost to Flight Option’s midsize aircraft category. While this value-focused product mix appeals greatly to individuals and small- to medium-size companies, larger corporations wishing to supplement existing fleets are exhibiting considerable interest, says Silvestro. In an effort to add even greater value, Silvestro is about to introduce an all-new hybrid program, which will eliminate residual value risk and further reduce hourly operating costs.
FLIGHT LOG >> Weather Central, LP
Founder and CEO Terry Kelly
Business: High-tech weather forecasting for print and broadcast media, insurance and public service companies
Travel Need: Access to media outlets and TV stations throughout the U.S. and Canada
Aircraft of Choice: Flight Options—Hawker 400
Keeping up with changes in the media industry—not just the weather—means fast action. It’s a difficult logistics problem when you’re based in Madison, Wis., and most of your customers are in small towns across America. That hasn’t deterred Terry Kelly, founder and CEO of Weather Central. For over a decade, he’s counted on a Flight Options Hawker 400 jet to react immediately to new opportunity and competitive challenges by flying direct to virtually anywhere. “We have been able to get right in without wasting precious time, and in every case we preserved and expanded our business,” he says. “We get our people there safely and quickly, and we avoid overnight expenses.
“It’s a matter of time and convenience. Customers are impressed and reassured when they can meet in person with the whole team,” he says. Often six or seven employees from a variety of disciplines will travel. “That would be very hard to accomplish flying commercially,” he adds.
CitationAir, owned by Cessna Aircraft Company, offers a unique package of business aircraft options, including jet cards and fractional ownership in a full range of Cessna aircraft. The strong integration with Cessna has given rise to an even more comprehensive set of business aircraft solutions, says Woody Harford, CitationAir’s senior vice president and CRO.
CitationAir now provides full support to Cessna’s new aircraft owners seeking turnkey aircraft management arrangements. They can generate revenue when the aircraft is not in use by making it available to other CitationAir customers, while gaining all fractional ownership benefits.
The all-new CitationAir Jet Access hybrid program bridges the gap between fractional ownership and jet cards by combining the advantages of both. “We think it will help define our company and also the way industry evolves as it experiences a recovery,” says Harford. The program eliminates the need for long-term capital investment while offering hourly rates similar to those of fractional ownership. Jet Access requires a commitment of 50 hours or more annually, and incremental hours can be purchased at the same rate.
In addition, a cost-effective “supplemental lift” program called Corporate Solutions allows independent flight departments to access CitationAir’s fleet on a pay-as-you-go basis.
CitationAir offers Cessna’s most popular light and midsize jet models and recently added the Citation X, which is one of the world’s fastest civilian jets and represents the top end of the Cessna Citation product line.
Avantair is the exclusive fractional provider of the sleek, fast, fuel-efficient Piaggio P180 Avanti turboprop. The company continues to bring significant value to business aviation with a top-performing aircraft and a range of attractively priced programs. “The Avanti combines the best of the smaller jets, but with greater capability,” says John Colucci, Avantair’s executive vice president.
It has the cabin space of a midsize jet, a fuel burn 40% lower than that of equivalent light jets, weather-topping cruise altitude, a 450-mph top speed and the lowest hourly cost in the industry. Colucci points out that these are key reasons why fractional share interest in the Avanti is hot, and why current Avantair owners are flying more.
In addition to the fractional share program, Avantair also offers a prepaid 25-hour Edge Card that continues to soar in popularity. The latest news, however, is a brand-new market-risk-free Axis Lease program. This program requires a minimal up-front financial commitment and includes an hourly charge that combines management fees and hourly operating costs. The net cost is similar to that which fractional owners enjoy, yet the commitment is no greater than the hours purchased. “Starting at 50 hours, you can build the Axis Lease program to accommodate exactly the number of hours you need,” says Colucci.
FLIGHT LOG >> Satellite Receivers, Ltd./Cash Depot
President David Charles, Sr.
Business: Retail store ATMs
Travel Need: Maintaining relationships with major retailers nationwide
Aircraft of Choice: Avantair—Piaggio Avanti
Based in Green Bay, Wis., Satellite Receivers, Ltd./Cash Depot President David Charles, Sr., deploys ATMs at major retailers coast to coast such as Walgreens, Walmart and Weigels. Personally meeting with customers in places like Knoxville or Savannah is crucial to business, but burdensome airline service—requiring as many as two stops and daylong travel—hampered Charles’ strategy. Now he’s cashing in with Avantair, quickly moving executives out of and customers into his Green Bay headquarters. “The difference is huge,” he says. “The Avanti is really fast, super-quiet and has a great big cabin. I’m six feet tall and I can stand up in it. We can get to any appointment on the East Coast and back in a day, no hotels, no waiting in line, and we arrive in a better frame of mind,” says Charles. “You’ve got to strike while the opportunity is hot, but if you dread going someplace, you’re just not going to go. Now we’re the first on the scene. We sign a contract and do the deal.”
HondaJet continues its ascent to market, taking its aircraft from a sketch on a piece of paper 20 years ago to the 51-minute flight of its first conforming production aircraft over its Greensboro, N.C., assembly facility in December 2010. The distinctively designed, advanced light business jet offers 18% to 20% more interior space than a conventional light jet and sets a lofty standard. Business and engineering innovator Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft Company’s founding president and CEO, says, “We have integrated everything we know about comfort, efficiency, safety and productivity in small spaces, and we are truly creating a unique aircraft category.” While weighing in as a light jet, the HondaJet has the cabin of a small to midsize jet and offers extraordinary performance for the category.
The HondaJet is a maverick that defies design and manufacturing convention. “With the engines mounted on top of the wings, not on the fuselage, we maximize cabin space,” Fujino explains. In addition, he says, the unconventionally positioned engines, newly designed by GE-Honda, enhance aerodynamic efficiency and allow the new jet to fly at higher speeds with greater fuel efficiency.
The roomy cabin accommodates an in-flight entertainment system, ceiling-mounted touch-screen monitors and a fully enclosed lavatory. “We didn’t skip anything. Cabin noise is very low, since engine vibration and noise do not translate directly to the fuselage,” says Fujino, who learned much about ergonomic design and functionality from Honda automobile development. First delivery of his brainchild is expected in 2013.
Reach for the Sky
There is no question that America is getting back to business as competition for new markets heats up. Companies scouring global markets for new opportunities are using business aircraft to get there fast. As a result, business aircraft manufacturers report a strong uptick in demand for long-range aircraft.
The Dassault Falcon 7X with extended range is achieving great success, not only in the U.S., but also in India, China and Brazil. The tri-jet Falcon family, including the 7X and Falcon 900 models, has proven itself on transoceanic routes. The three engines add considerable security benefits, together with performance enhancements enabling takeoffs from shorter runways with sufficient fuel capacity for nonstop global journeys. Add to that the latest flight deck technology—such as enhanced and synthetic vision, which augments flexibility, safety and performance in the most compromising flight situations—and you’ve got capability and efficiency that works as well between New York and Tokyo as it does between New Orleans and Topeka.
Bombardier also has achieved significant success in global market environments where range and capability are the watchwords. The Challenger 850 and the new fleet of Global aircraft—the 500, XRS, 6000, 7000 and 8000—are breaking range records daily. The Global 8000 truly puts the world at your fingertips. With its 9,000-sm range, Mumbai, Hong Kong or Singapore are within nonstop reach of New York. The three-zone cabin offers berthable seats for 12 passengers, so a group can work, dine and sleep comfortably during 16-hour flights and remain in constant touch via Internet, phone or TV.
Onward and Upward
You’ll be amazed when you speak with those who use these aircraft, ranging from turboprops and small jets to globe-spanning behemoths. You’ll learn that a business aircraft might be the best tool for gaining that competitive edge. And with the myriad ways to access one, there is no reason to be left behind. As world economies get back on their feet, the challenge is on. Isn’t it time that you, too, reached for the sky?
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