Air France is vowing to stick with its private jet partner as it seeks to launch a new business model
Despite Wijet’s decision to shutter its U.K. subsidiary Blink and return its operating certificate that enables it to fly its own aircraft, commercial airline partner Air France undeterred says the relationship between the two companies will continue.
“The recently announced transfer of Wijet’s British activities to continental Europe does not have any impact on our partnership offering Air France’s first-class passengers the opportunity to seamlessly connect between Paris CDG and the 1200 European airports on Wijet’s jets,” Air France said in a statement provided to Private Jet Card Comparisons.
Wijet said it embarking on a new model where it will third-party operators to fly its aircraft and charter from other operators to fulfill flight requests. It’s a change from the model the company had pursued where it held its own Air Operator’s Certificates.
In closing its British operations, there were numerous assertions that vendors and employees had not been paid with continuing accusations of mismanagement. Wijet officials declined to tell us if they would protect jet card and charter payments to its U.K. business, however, Corporate Jet Investor reported, “An official at Wijet stresses that it will honor any jet card deposits from UK customers and pay July salaries to UK staff.”
Criticism of Wijet and its management hasn’t been limited to former employees and executives. Charter broker Victor’s head of supply Mike Ryan told us, “Unfortunately, owing to a sustained drop in service levels and performance we haven’t placed any bookings with Wijet this year.” He added, “It has been sad to learn of Wijet’s demise in the UK. It, of course, follows the collapse of a number of jet charter services in North America and Europe over the past few years, and such developments always risk eroding the credibility of the wider private aviation space.” Other charter brokers also say the had also stopped booking customers onto Wijet aircraft before its decision to stop flying its current fleet.
While Wijet’s current management was critical of the Citation Mustang and the U.K. market in light of Brexit, Ryan noted, “From Victor’s own standpoint, U.K. and European business in the lighter aircraft segment remains strong. This year we plan to place over 500 charters in the Mustang-size market. More generally, we have seen 95% year-on-year revenue growth for Q1. “
The connection between commercial airlines and business aviation is not new. In fact, several airlines have their own divisions selling private jet charter and jet cards, including Delta Air Lines (Delta Private Jets), Qatar Airways (Qatar Executive) and Korean Air. In fact, All Nippon Airways recently announced it will open a business jet division in a partnership with HondaJet. Other airlines have alliances with private jet operators. For example, Lufthansa works with NetJets Europe, Etihad Airways with Royal Jet and XOJET have partnerships designed to help their customers who want private flight transfers from main hubs to secondary markets.
Wijet said its new model will be structured like Wheels Up and Surf Air which have their own fleet of aircraft but hire third-party operators to fly them. Wijet said it intends to go forward with its plans to acquire 16 HondaJet private jets, which was announced earlier this year. It said in the interim it will accommodate customers via a broker model where it will arrange flights with charter operators.