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Towards on-line distribution of private jet charter flights

Many of us in the charter world are often delighted to read or hear that business travelers and affluent individuals are becoming disenchanted with commercial flights, crowded airports, flight delays, and inconvenient schedules. But the truth of the matter is that if we were to bring less than 1% of those passengers into the private jet charter arena, our current processes would fail on all levels.

Let's face it. It takes at least half a dozen phone calls, faxes, or emails, before you can get a charter estimate – which may or may not be correct. Then if you have the pluck to go for it, you still need the aircraft "owner approval". Without "owner approval", which may take from 2 hours to a week to reach you, you're back to the drawing board again calling operators, leaving messages, faxing… ah! the faxing. All this, folks, and you have not boarded the plane yet.

Increased aircraft utilization presents many challenges as well. If we are to add a tiny fraction of unhappy airline passengers to the private jet charter circuit, we will have to fly the airplanes upwards of 1,200 to 1,500 hours a year. Has anyone done that before? Rarely if ever. First, it is unclear whether the aircraft currently flying can withstand this level of utilization. Second, aircraft owners traditionally fly less than 400 hours a year and they seldom hire more than one pilot and one co-pilot, and maybe, if the aircraft management company really insists and promises miraculous charter revenues, a third pilot is recruited.

So the question begs itself: How will an operation whose processes are designed to accommodate this low - very low - aircraft utilization, stretch itself to fulfill 1200 to 1,500 hours of flight time? What will happen to its operational safety controls, its maintenance standards, its customer service levels? Well, let's focus on service levels today in periods of peak demand where a passenger will pay ,000 for a five hour flight on a mid-size jet with a toilet that doesn't flush, a bathroom door that doesn't close, and a heating system that is malfunctioning – this happened to me. Do you imagine yourself in below freezing temperatures at 41,000 feet without climate control or lavatory facilities? Then top it all off with a credit card bill of ,000? This is not the sign of a careless aircraft operator, rather the sign of an operator who lacks the quality control processes that are adequate to support high production volumes.

The source of the problem is that current pricing mechanisms do not warrant investment in an aircraft for the purpose of charter. Aircraft owners are subsidizing the current price levels. Charter revenues barely cover the aircraft management and operational costs, and almost never reach levels necessary to cover an aircraft's cost of ownership. At the same time in the charter world an aircraft flies empty 40% to 60% of the time. Passengers are paying for "repositioning" flight time, and for the aircraft returning to its base empty after having been dropped off at their destination. In summary, the passengers are paying more than they should and the investors are loosing money. How long do you believe this situation will continue?

A number of aircraft management companies are addressing this problem through mergers and acquisitions, hoping that with a larger fleet and a larger network they might be able to reduce the number of empty flights. Agreements with owners are being changed and new agreements are designed to favor charter over owner use of the private jet. But the Holy Grail of charter industry is still in its infancy: distribution. Distribution means that passengers are given the ability to shop and book private jets with the same ease and access they have when shopping and booking other air-transportation solution. Today this kind of access is offered only on and affiliate web sites. delivers consumers everything they need for researching, planning, and purchasing private jet charters. The company is providing direct access to a broad world-wide selection of private air-transportation solutions including private jets, turboprops, and even reciprocating-engine aircraft. The site offers a side-by-side comparison of every aircraft available on the selected route. Passengers can evaluate the differences in cabin height, luggage capacity, number of seats, presence of lavatory facilities on board, flight times, and prices. Unlike other websites that offer only estimates. This is the only web site where you can actually process the entire booking on-line. It is designed to emulate a standard travel website. It is identical to booking an airline seat, except that in this case you're booking the aircraft.

The pressures exerted by the sustained high demand from business travelers and affluent individuals today must result in a fundamental change in how the private jet charter industry is handling this boon. The industry has received an unprecedented invitation from the marketplace to gear up its production methods and processes for a future where private air-transportation will be accessible to a far greater number of passengers. These passengers are already learning to think of private jet charter as a serious alternative to airline products. Are we ready?

About the Author: George J. Khairallah is the President of BusinessJet Class, the private jet charter GDS. Visit His websites BusinessJet Class and Private jet charter for more information.

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