When I began my career in the aviation industry 25 years ago, the “life cycle” of private aviation consumers was straightforward and predictable. They sampled private aircraft travel by chartering, moved into fractional ownership and then, eventually, whole aircraft ownership. Later in the life cycle, when the consumer’s travel decreased, they moved back into fractional ownership and eventually returned full circle to charter. Typically, a consumer would rely on a single provider until that provider could no longer satisfy their requirements.
For a variety of reasons, including the recent pandemic, this conventional life cycle of the private aviation consumer has drastically changed. There has been a revolution in private aviation options and platforms, creating many new alternatives that did not previously exist. This has led to a decrease in brand loyalty by private aviation users. Also, many first-time aircraft buyers have not flown privately for an extended period and move right into whole aircraft ownership. Many private aviation consumers have become much savvier and use a combination of multiple aviation solutions to fulfill their various travel needs.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
When a private aviation consumer finds herself in any one or more of the following scenarios: considering private aviation for the first time, looking for an alternative option to a current service provider, contemplating whole aircraft ownership, or resolving dissatisfaction with a current service provider, there is no standard answer as to what program or option(s) would be best. There are many factors to consider when selecting one or more private aviation products and the consumer does not often have the time to fully explore the multitude of available options. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
1. Number of hours flown per year
3. Importance placed on the age of the aircraft
4. Length of flight segments
5. Ratio of roundtrip vs. one-way travel
6. Number of passengers
7. Peak time traveler or business week traveler
8. Acceptable service level (i.e. on time performance, working entertainment systems, interior condition and amenities)
9. Amount of time available to manage private travel solutions
10. Financial stability of service providers being considered
Given the complexities of the offerings in today’s aviation market and the limited research time available to most consumers, it is often advisable to hire a consultant who is well connected in the industry. The consultant can help the consumer consider the key factors mentioned above, explore the various options and propose the solutions that make the most sense for the customer’s travel profile, needs and wants. When selecting the consultant, it is important to confirm that they do not receive any referral fees or other types of compensation by recommending one program over another. The consumer must be sure the consultant is making their recommendation based solely upon their best interests.
It seems that almost monthly there is a new aviation program or offering that I am hearing about for the first time or a new permutation on an old program. It is sometimes exhausting to keep up with all the changes that are occurring in the marketplace. However, even if you read all the marketing literature, you can’t truly understand a program, the “enhancements” it offers and the performance of the service provided unless you place multiple users into a specific program and evaluate its success. That is why an experienced consultant can bring tremendous value to a consumer evaluating private aviation solutions. As I always remind my private aviation clients, please don’t simply select the program that your friend uses unless your friend has the exact same travel needs and service level expectations. If you do, you may be setting yourself up for a costly disappointment.
There is no longer a typical life cycle pattern for the consumer of private aviation. Take the time to evaluate all the options available (with the help of a trusted consultant) and chart your own path based on the solutions that best suit your unique travel needs.