A CHIEF EXECUTIVE recently shared an email about a jet charter his company had arranged for important clients. Scheduled for an on-time departure from Austin, the pilots noticed a blinking light in the cockpit and called in the mechanics. Several hours later, the issue was resolved, but the crew, which by then had exceeded FAA-mandated hours for the day, was grounded. Unable to secure a replacement aircraft, the clients didn’t complete the flight to Phoenix until the following day. The CEO, an experienced private flyer, was incensed that such an expensive trip had been delayed because the provider couldn’t find another jet. “One of the most incredible s*** shows ever by a charter company,” he wrote.
For an industry that prides itself on clockwork white-glove service, dealing with the massive, COVID-era influx of newcomers from the commercial airlines has been a struggle. “We’re seeing 25 to 40 per cent more volume than previous years,” says Michael Silvestro, CEO of Flexjet, a fractional-ownership and jet-card provider. “Our companies are all trying to get supply up to these levels of demand. We’re in the ultimate famine-to-feast moment.”
NetJets, the largest fractional provider, suspended all jet-card sales to ensure it could keep its fractional owners flying on time. “NetJets’ flight demand is currently exceeding all other highs in our 57-year history,” wrote company president Patrick Gallagher, last July, by way of acknowledging that some owners had experienced delays. “The vast number of flights,” he continued, “is taxing the air-travel infrastructure in ways we haven’t seen in years.”
Jay Mesinger, CEO of Mesinger Jet Sales, says he’s even seeing some companies change the terms of service in mid-contract by lengthening the amount of lead time clients must give them, and echoes Gallagher’s sentiments: “We haven’t come to grips with this yet.I think there will be a lot of disappointment.”
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