Few recent products in business aviation have epitomized innovation more than the HA-420 HondaJet, with its distinctive over the wing mounted engines and best-in-class performance. The light twinjet became the inspiration for Jet It's innovative all-HondaJet fractional ownership program, launched by two former HondaJet sales executives in 2018. The North Carolina-based program has quickly grown, underscored this past year by the announcement of a major expansion into Europe and Asia under the international division's Jet Club brand, furthering the company’s plans to “create a global leader in affordable private travel solutions,” said co-founder Vishal Hiremath.
Tailoring the offerings to the markets, Jet Club will operate as a membership-based travel service in Southeast Asia and India, and a hybrid-fractional share company in Europe. The service also features international concierges who can coordinate members’ transportation needs as they travel from region to region, ensuring a Jet Club solution is always at hand. Jet It is also taking delivery of two more HondaJets to support the expansion, bringing its fleet to seven.
Also noteworthy among the program’s innovations: for owner-pilots, Jet It offers “an easy but thorough type training process to sharpen your skills,” so owners can pilot the single-pilot-certified aircraft themselves when they choose. “You earned your wings,” Jet Club says, “Now fly your jet!”
Jet Linx introduced its unique membership jet card and private terminal access model with its Omaha, Nebraska debut in 1999, charging members an upfront fee to buy and renew jet cards for economical, high touch, guaranteed access service based from its own exclusive FBOs. Today, Jet Linx has almost a score of bases nationwide and operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, and its innovations continue. In response to COVID concerns, Jet Linx introduced the Enterprise Jet Card, created for corporate customers turning to business aviation for the first time by pandemic issues.
The card provides availability of up to four aircraft per day from the Jet Linx fleet at guaranteed, fixed hourly rates, available to fly an unlimited number of employees. Additional benefits include a 24-hour lead time, no short-notice fees, and guaranteed Wi-Fi across light, midsize, super-midsize and heavy jet categories. Flexible payment options provide pricing incentives such as flight credits, confirmed upgrades, and a rewards program.
“Now more than ever, we understand the significant role of business aviation and wanted to create a flexible and reliable corporate travel solution,” said Jet Linx president and CEO Jamie Walker.
Also in response to the pandemic, Jet Linx became the first aviation company to use the BioProtectUs System from ViaClean Technologies to treat aircraft and facilities with the patented long-term antimicrobial disinfectant.
Founded as a pioneering OEM-owned fractional ownership program, the former Bombardier Flexjet’s history of access innovation predates joining the Directional Aviation fold, and this year added to its legacy by introducing FXAir, a premium on-demand charter service, in partnership with sister Directional company OneSky Flight.
Featuring Flexjet’s second-generation Nextant 400XT light, Challenger 300 super-midsize, and Global Express ultra-long-range jets, the fleet is complemented by premium legacy aircraft from vetted operators across the five cabin categories offered (midsize and large-cabin jets in addition to the above). The preferred access Aviator account, FXAir’s flagship program, offers low, flat-rate fares on transcontinental flights; charter access throughout Europe; and an assortment of perks and complimentary services including free Wi-Fi on domestic and international flights, aircraft upgrades when available, and real-time booking via mobile app. Account deposits (minimum $100,000) are fully refundable.
FXAir provides easy, all-inclusive access from a highly regarded provider for late adopters drawn to private aviation by Covid-19 issues. Additionally, its use of legacy airframes in the premium service also demonstrates the business aviation fleet’s sustainability at a time when its age is drawing greater attention. Moreover, the program’s rollout amidst the pandemic, said FXAir CEO Andrew Collins, “really demonstrates the strength of the Directional Aviation family of brands.”
No stranger to innovation itself, Directional is also parent company of jet card powerhouse Sentient Jet and the Nextant airframe remanufacturing programs.
VistaJet has been in the vanguard of charter innovators since founder and chairman Thomas Flohr debuted the “asset light” global block charter program early this century. New developments continue today under the Vista Group umbrella with sister charter operator XO, and this past year VistaJet introduced a humanitarian innovation to address critical needs created by the Covid-19 pandemic: the premium charter service is providing complimentary empty leg flights aboard its fleet of bespoke, large-cabin Bombardier aircraft to transport supplies and government, medical, and health personnel impacted by the lack of airline service. Working directly with governments and consulates around the world, VistaJet is assisting with the complex logistics and permit and paperwork requirements and has repatriated stranded citizens, as well.
VistaJet has also introduced short aircraft leases, rather than its customary 36-month terms, to make aircraft available for organizations seeking temporary solutions to transportation shortfalls induced by the pandemic.
“This is an unusual time, and one that we must all work together where possible to do whatever we can to help,” said Flohr. “Ultimately, we are a logistics company and we are here to help the global community as much as we can. We are in this fight together.”
VistaJet has also made sustainability a linchpin of its program and mission. This past year the company launched a carbon offset program that 80 percent of its customers now use to compensate for their flight’s emissions, with funds invested in select emission-reduction projects worldwide. The Malta-based company has also created a plan to secure sustainable aviation fuel sources for its global operations.
Innovation has been at the core of Wheels Up since debuting its closed-fleet charter access membership model in 2013, the first step in founder Kenny Dichter’s stated goal to “democratize” private aviation access. Impressive growth and firsts have followed, yet this past year has outstripped all others in the number and scale of advances.
First came a Costco-branded jet card Wheels Up created with the mass market retailer, serving to spread public awareness of private aviation as a consumer item. Of greater impact was the New York City-based charter provider’s acquisition of Delta Private Jets, which made a major commercial carrier—Delta Air Lines—Wheels Up’s largest investor, a partner with the reach, resources, and now reasons to vastly expand private aviation’s domain among the public, while simultaneously adding lift to serve Wheels Up’s growing base of on-demand charter customers.
Wheels Up also acquired the Travel Management Company, whose owned and operated light jet fleet was a major source of external lift; as well as Gama Aviation Signature—the largest charter operator in the U.S.—and operator of Wheels Up’s wholly-owned fleets of King Air 350is and Citation light jets. Any one of these developments would be challenging for an access provider to introduce successfully in a year, but Wheels Up also debuted a new management division, whose offerings include “charter select,” a program that assists clients in achieving charter revenue goals, expanding the available charter fleet in the process. Together, innovations like these bring democratized private aviation access closer by the day.