Speaking on Mornings with Maria earlier this week, Flexjet CEO Mike Silvestro covered a wide range of topics related to business aviation, including attempts to Uberize private jet travel, fractional ownership and leases, safety in the aftermath of Boeing MAX, market growth and potential.
“A lot of startups want to uberize private travel, and the model just doesn’t work,” Silvestro told guest host Charles Payne, adding, “There are some basic fundamentals of flying a private aircraft around…it’s costly.”
He said Flexjet’s current business is “split 50/50…We have high net worth individuals and corporate flight departments using Flexjet for supplemental lift,” something he called “a major trend.”
Silvestro said instead of buying additional aircraft, corporate flight departments are more and more adding capacity through fractional ownership or leases, giving the company access to Flexjet’s entire fleet of over 150 aircraft ranging from the Phenom 300 to the Gulfstream G650. Flexjet recently launched a program selling the ultra-long-haul private jet on a daily basis instead of the traditional hours-based model.
Calling private jet travel a “time machine” for those who can afford it, he said while the price of flying privately isn’t going down, the efficiency comes from being able to arrange flights on as little as eight hours notice in the Continental U.S. and saving travel time.
He said company executives and managers, particularly in manufacturing, are going to places where there isn’t direct air service, so flying privately increases productivity. He said for executives, private travel is “like a conference call in the sky.”
Asked if the political environment is impacting travel overseas, Silvestro said Flexjet’s international flying is up 25% so far in 2019, “primarily to popular European destinations.”
He told the Fox Business hosts, “If you have the money, it’s an effective business tool.”
Asked if Flexjet was increasing investment in safety in light of the grounding of the Boeing MAX fleet following two fatal accidents, Silvestro said, There is nothing safer than a well-trained, happy crew.” He said the company’s pilots average over 10,000 hours of total flight time.
He said, “At the core of everything we do is to have a safe operation for our customers and our crews so we have been over investing for a very long time.”
In terms of growth, Silvestro said Flexjet has seen over 50% growth in new customers. He added, “There’s a lot of wealth…people who haven’t chosen yet to fly privately.”
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