Turbulence, what turbulence?

Big airlines may be suffering, but a new private jet firm has just taken off...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

We know a lot of entrepreneurs are suffering the effects of the credit crunch, but some - like those in the private aviation industry - are positively thriving because of it.

Fractional ownership is a growing trend in the private jet business, offering high net worth individuals the chance to avoid the endless lines and wasted time at Gatwick and Heathrow by buying a share in a private jet (one sixteenth for £470k, if you're keen). The latest addition to the bunch is Jet Republic, launched yesterday by former RAF pilot and flight instructor Jonathan Breeze.  

Explaining to MT how it'll work, Breeze makes it all sound very simple.

Jet Republic will offer two options. The first is the fractional ownership programme, where customers can buy part of a private jet, getting the benefits of jet ownership with none of the hassle - a bit like time-share, though, says Breeze, 'you'll get it when you want it'. The second is a jet card programme, where the customer buys flight time in 25 hour chunks (£100k each, in case you're interested). 'It's just like a pre-pay Oyster card,' says Breeze, 'except with more zeroes on the end.'

MT readers might be wondering at the wisdom of a venture like this now, when the aviation industry is taking a battering. But, according to Breeze, this is precisely the right time to be doing it:  'When airlines suffer, they close the thinner routes and so the private jet business grows stronger.' Breeze says that Jet Republic will service these thinner routes for their target customers - 'entrepreneurs, time-poor people.'

And the numbers seem to be on Breeze's side. The customer base is growing. The number of high net worth individuals is increasing by around 8% year on year, and between 1998 and 2007, the number of business jet flights increased by 83%. Europe's share is predicted to grow from 13-25% over the next 10 years. What's more his customer base, the super-rich, are probably the only ones not feeling the pinch from the global financial crisis.

Jet Republic has secured financial backing from Euram, the Austrian bank - and a consortium of its clients - which it's using to buy 110 Bombardier Learjet 60 XR aircraft, at £7.5m a piece: the largest European private jet order ever made.

Interestingly, Breeze is the former commercial director of NetJets Europe, the company he sees as being Jet Republic's main competitor. But, according to Breeze, Jet Republic will offer 'a service head and shoulders above what they can do.' This will include a lot of fancy add-ons, such as multilingual flight attendants, in-flight wireless connectivity, hot meals, and fresh espressos.

And like all good entrepreneurs, Breeze will be getting hands dirty (metaphorically speaking of course) with the business end of Jet Republic, flying a Learjet 60 himself: 'I'll fly two or three days a month, meet the customers, see how the staff are getting on. What's that American phrase? - "If you can eat your own dog food" - then, you'll have a much better chance of pleasing your customers.' Obviously, you can take the man out of the cockpit, but you can't take the cockpit out of the man.

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