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Blink’s Cessna Citation Mustangs. Right: the exterior (top), and interior (below) of a Beechcraft King Air 200

“You board 15 minutes before take-off, have the plane to yourself, you can take any luggage you want and you get off at the other end to a waiting car” It’s on the cards

ownership is great for business leaders and individuals who need to fly privately but don’t travel enough to justify the expense of a whole plane and flight crew of their own, and to those who need access to multiple aircraft at the same time.” NetJets Europe owners can have a share in an aircraft starting at 1/32nd of a jet (25 hours a year), with prices starting from $125,000 for a 25-hour share in a light jet. And, as Emily implies, you are not restricted to the plane that you invest in, you can upgrade to a larger jet or downgrade to a smaller jet if required. Fractional ownership does demand a commitment, however, and can vary depending on the type of plane – but you are generally looking at a two year minimum at the very least. That said, a large number of NetJets’ passengers actually buy more than a basic fraction in an aircraft and it still comes in cheaper than outright ownership. “When you buy a jet, you’re buying 800 hours of potential flight time a year and all the associated maintenance and management costs, which can run into millions of euros,” Emily explains. “The average NetJets Europe customer spends less than €700,000 a year – which is a very small proportion of the cost of purchasing a whole jet. This makes the service accessible to a wider audience.”

If fractional ownership isn’t an affordable option, then booking blocks of time on an airline could be an idea. Indeed, some companies, such as NetJets, offer both programmes in order to give clients more choice. The premise is a simple one: you buy a certain number of hours (say 50 at a time) on a plane of your choice. As Michael Rapley explains: “When you buy hours, you have an upfront commitment. Say you buy 50 hours in advance, we have to take the money upfront, and over the course of the next 18 or 24 months you use it up. Normally when people buy hours they tend to base it on a regular type of flight – they know that there are always going to be four passengers flying a regular route. If they are going to need one plane one week and a different plane the next week, then buying block hours might not be the right option for them.”

Indeed, this option isn’t without its problems. You can be restricted to flying on a set plane out of a designated airport, for instance, and have to pay more if you want to go on a different route. Should the aircraft encounter bad weather, it may be forced to divert or simply take longer to get to its destination – which may well come off the hours on your card. Also, taking into account the

48 December 2010/January 2011

somewhat volatile nature of the airline business in recent years, you could pay your cash up front only for the company to go down the pan. And if you have shelled out £125,000, you aren’t going to be a happy bunny. That said, buying blocks of time works for many people because of the certainty that it gives them, and it can work out cheaper than buying on a more ad hoc basis.

Taxis and bargains It might be hard to believe it, but there is a ‘budget’ end of private aviztion – you still get all of the benefits of flying privately, but without any upfront commitment. Welcome to the world of the ad hoc air-taxi service. The principle couldn’t be simpler.

These days we are used to booking a flight online and then heading off in a matter of days, so why should private aviation be any different? As Peter Leiman at Blink says: “We are sort of the EasyJet of private jets. You can go online or phone us up and book a flight from one place to another at a price that is transparent. Though that’s where the similarity ends as you get the plane to yourself and top quality personal service.” The ability to simply book a private flight a matter of days – or even hours – before you need to fly without having

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