There was no change among the top four North American private jet holding companies, based on combined Part 135 and Part 91k flight hours. However, Argus TraqPak data shows a new player in the 5th spot. FlyExclusive moved from 10th in 2019 to 8th in 2020. The table below provides a company-by-company ranking for the 30 largest private jet companies in 2021, including flight hours and market share.
But first, let’s discuss our analysis. Why do we combine the Argus TraqPak’s data of Part 91k and Part 135 operators?
Argus designates operators under Part 91k – fractional ownership – if more than 50% of their aircraft have shares available.
2021 Private Aviation Data and Statistics 25 Largest Part 135 Private Jet Charter Companies for 2021 ranked 2021’s Biggest Part 91k Fractional Private Jet Operators ranked 25 Busiest U.S. Private Jet Airports in 2021 2021 Private Jet Flights by State-by-State Charter/Fractional Private Jet Market Share 2007-to-2021
That equates to 95,000 hours of charter flights, which would have ranked it second on the 2021 Argus Part 135 operators list.
Other operators on the Argus fractional operators list also make their aircraft available to third-party brokers for the Part 135 charter.
By combining Part 91k and 135, we give a broader look at shared aircraft – fractional and charter fleets.
It also gives you the opportunity to view the “for-hire” market, Part 135 and 91k operators, against the total market, which includes non-commercial Part 91 business aircraft flight hours.
We also use this analysis to combine operators under their corporate parents.
As an example, that means adding Part 135 operator Executive Jet Management, a NetJets Inc. company, together with NetJets’ flights. It also means summing VistaJet, Red Wing Aviation, Talon Air, and XOJet flying under Vista Global Holding.
Finally, aircraft arrival and departure information is included on all IFR flights in the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), Canada, and the Caribbean. That means flights from NetJets Europe in the North America region are added into the total and the same for other operators. They are noted at the bottom of the chart below.
What do we miss? This data is for operators and doesn’t count off-fleet brokerage flight activity.
As an example, in addition to its operator Flexjet, in the U.S., Directional Aviation owns jet card broker Sentient Jet and on-demand broker FXAir. In 2020, we estimate they combined for around $500 million in sales. Some of that was onto the Flexjet fleet, but the vast majority of it was on third-party operators.
Likewise, a considerable amount of sales for both Wheels Up and Vista’s brokers XO and Apollo Jets are onto third-party operators.
In its 2021 pre-IPO investor presentation, Wheels Up said its growth plan was based mainly on an asset-light strategy of using third-party operators.
So, this list tracks flight volume by the operator. Yet 13 of the 30 largest operators don’t have their own jet card or membership programs, and they instead focus on the wholesale market, although, as you will see, that it may change.
In a detailed analysis of data provided by Argus TraqPak, it was no surprise that NetJets held serve in the top spot.
It may raise eyebrows; however, it increased its market share.
NetJets share of Part 135/91k flight hours increased from 18.3% to 20.1%. However, most of those gains were in the first half of 2021, and its share was 19.8% as of June when we provided a midyear look.
It is also the only operator with a double-digit share of the total market, including Part 91 operations.
NetJets, Inc. flight hours increased from 336,252 in 2020 to 542,831, a 61% jump. From a historical perspective, the Berkshire Hathaway unit flew 462,574 hours in 2019. (Read our 2021 Year in Review for the 10 Largest Private Jet Companies below.)
Directional Aviation’s Flexjet held its second spot as flight hours increased from 134,481 in 2020 to 178,327, although its share of the for-hire market fell to 6.6% from 7.3%. Flexjet flew 130,379 hours in 2019.
Wheels Up Experience in the third spot boosted its share to 6.2% from 5.9%, not counting the 8,377 hours from its February 2022 acquisition of Alante. However, even adding those totals, it would have remained behind Flexjet.
|Rank||Parent/Brand||2021 Hours||Share – 91k/135||Share – Total Market|
|3.||Wheels Up Experience||166,805||6.2%||3.4%|
|7.||Jet Linx Aviation||42,284||1.6%||0.9%|
|13.||Clay Lacy Aviation||17,940||0.7%||0.4%|
|14.||Corporate Flight Mgmt.||14,284||0.5%||0.3%|
|16.||Worldwide Jet Charter||11,966||0.4%||0.2%|
|18.||NXT Jet/Wing (Alliance)||11,737||0.4%||0.2%|
|19.||Hop A Jet||11,682||0.4%||0.2%|
|25.||Jet Access Aviation||10,477||0.4%||0.2%|
|29.||Premier Private Jets||9,135||0.4%||0.2%|
With its acquisition spree, Wheels Up flights hours have jumped from 18,618 in 2019 to 107,592 last year and 166,805 in 2021. This year for the first time, included the January 2021 acquisition of Mountain Aviation, which in 2020 clocked 27,661 hours, ranking 7th that year.
Vista Global, which increased hours to 96,200 from 71,343 across its portfolio of operators, still lost 3/10ths of a share point. Last year, it added Talon Air to its totals, and it’s 50% bigger than 2019, when it had 65,344 hours in North American departures. That, of course, was before its Red Wing acquisition. It also didn’t account for VistaJet N-tail aircraft operated by Jet Aviation prior to Vista’s acquisition of XOJet in 2018.
If its acquisition of Air Hamburg goes through, that will have a negligible impact on our list, which is based on North American departures. The German operator only clocked 575 hours in North America in 2021, according to Argus.
New in the Top 5 is FlyExclusive. After jumping from 10th in 2019 to 8th in 2020, it displaced Jet Linx Aviation in the 5th spot as flight hours grew from 25,872 to 45,617. It also increased market share by over 20%, although in the fragmented fractional and charter market, that still just represents 1.7% share.
While Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24 fractional operator PlaneSense held the 6th spot, Jet Linx Aviation placed 7th despite a 33% increase in flight hours, compared to both 2020 and 2019.
Below are 2021 highlights for the 10 largest fractional and charter operators.
Mergers, acquisitions, fleet orders, and IPOs highlighted key stories among the biggest charter and fractional operators.
The big news from NetJets, Inc. was both its NetJets and Executive Jet Management shut down sales of their jet card programs in August as demand spiked to record levels.
That came after NetJets in June put on hiatus its Classic jet card, which featured a 10-hour call-out. It also halted immediate access for new fractional share buyers in October.
Prior to stopping jet card sales, it had implemented two rate hikes and changed peak days to blackouts.
In terms of growth, NetJets added over 80 new private jets last year, hiring hundreds of pilots and other staff. Over 100 more new jets will come this year. There was also an order for 100 additional Embraer Phenom 300E light jets. Of note was a return to China, with an investment in Shenzhen-based Amber Aviation.
The world’s biggest private aviation provider also upped its sustainability push by investing in WasteFuel, which recycles garbage into Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
Lastly, it retired the Marquis Jet name that it had used to brand its jet cards.
There are no publicly available revenue estimates for the unit of Berkshire Hathaway.
Flexjet, like Sentient Jet, halted new jet card sales, although both allowed current customers to renew.
Flexjet ramped up delivery of new jets and will take an average of four new private jets monthly through the end of 2022. It also expanded the footprint of its Gulfstream G650 fractional program.
Its OneSky Flight unit bought two helicopter operators – based in the Northeast U.S. and outside London. Directional then unveiled a door-to-door strategy with an order for 200 eVTOLs from Eve.
Flexjet continued its strategy of not selling jets after exiting its fractional fleet. Instead, it uses them as a charter fleet for customers of Sentient and FXAir.
Via 4Air, Directional companies have taken a leadership position in going beyond just offsetting carbon neutrality, offsetting all harmful emissions.
Directional Principal Kenn Ricci’s SPAC Zanite went public and merged with Embraer’s Eve.
A Moody’s report from August 2020 pegged OneFlight annual gross revenues at $1.6 billion for the year ending June 30, 2020.
Wheels Up started 2021 with a January acquisition of Mountain Air, which in 2020 ranked 7th on our list. The big news, of course, was its landmark IPO in July.
But there was also a constant stream of executive announcements as the company bolstered its credentials with leaders who brought experience from publicly traded companies. Vinayak Hegde was quickly promoted to President.
Wheels Up never stopped selling memberships. However, in November, it did block joiners at lower levels from flying immediately. That was rescinded earlier this month.
In going public, the company changed its official name from Wheels Up Partners to Wheels Up Experience. As part of its stated efforts to go beyond flying, it signed a slew of lifestyle partnerships, including a signature deal with American Express.
It started 2022 with an agreement to buy a U.K.-based jet card and charter broker Air Partner to lead its promised international expansion. That deal is expected to close in Q1.
It also acquired light jet operator Alante Air Charter, which ranked 29th on our 2021 list. Alante’s numbers are not included in the Wheels Up totals.
Refinitiv pegged analysts’ consensus of $1.192 billion in 2021 revenues for Wheels Up Experience.
Read all our reports about Wheels Up.
Vista Global’s buys 2021 included adding mega-broker Apollo Jets and charter operator Talon Air, 17th on the 2021 list of Top Charter Operators.
Bolstering its green credentials, VistaJet said it would be carbon neutral by 20025.
Vista has started 2022 with an agreement to buy Air Hamburg, a move that will add 44 private jets to its fleet.
According to Fitch Ratings, Vista Global sales soared from $900 million in 2020 to $1.6 billion last year.
2021 was a watershed year. After launching its first consumer membership program at the end of 2020, it continued to build its fleet via used jets.
It also opened its maintenance hangar, paint shop, and interior studio at Kinston, North Carolina headquarters.
From 2019, when it broke into the Top 10, it improved from 8th in 2020 to the 5th spot in 2021. However, it would have to double in size to catch 4th place Vista Global.
Still, its 76.3% increase in flight hours last year was the highest growth rate of the eight largest companies on our list.
For its jet card – it never stopped selling – it bolstered Jet Club by adding fixed-hourly pricing to the deep Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America. It also launched a new pricing structure, making it a competitive option from the East Coast to popular mountain ski destinations.
Last September, Chairman and Owner Jim Segrave said he expected 2021 revenues to clock in at around $230 million.
Read all our reports about FlyExclusive.
PlaneSense expanded the ferry-fee free service areas for its Pilatus PC-12 program to the West Coast. It also opened a Western U.S. base outside of Las Vegas.
On the charter side, it halted charter sales via its Cobalt subsidiary as demand soared.
Jet Linx Aviation opened its first Florida base in Miami at Opa Locka Executive Airport. It also rolled out alternative ownership programs as it seeks to build its fleet with both owned and managed aircraft.
Read all our reports about Jet Linx Aviation.
With KKR’s backing, Jet Edge added 27 super-midsize and large cabin private jets in 2021.
It also put NetJets and Flexjet squarely in its sights, with its AdvantagEdge program for charter-focused jet owners, positioning it as a fractional alternative.
It also launched its first jet card offer and quickly reached the $100 million sales mark.
What’s next? Jet Edge was recently in discussions with Vista Global and Directional in the frenzied M&A market, although a transaction is not necessarily imminent.
Read all our reports about Jet Edge.
Despite its focus on Part 91 – only about a third of the 275 private jets it has under management are Part 135 – Solairus had the highest growth rate of the 10 largest private jet companies in 2021. Its flight hours jumped 89.3%.
While halting sales of its fixed-rate jet card, it launched an app providing hard quotes you can book instantly. It also remained largely focused on the wholesale market.
Read all our reports about Solairus Aviation.
Read all our reports about Airshare.
Solairus (89.3%), Airshare (77.1%), FlyExclusive (76.3%), NetJets (61.4%), Jet Edge (59.9%), and Wheels Up (55.0%) recorded the biggest percentage growth among the 10 biggest private jet providers.
These 10 largest private jet companies increased their share of Part 135/91k flight hours to 45.1% from 44.3% in 2020.
In other words, business aviation in the U.S. is still a fragmented market. That means if there is a break in the demand curve, there will be downward pricing pressure. Of course, Argus forecasts another record year in 2022.
It’s worth noting 13 of the 30 largest operators don’t have a formal jet card or membership program. But that’s changing.
FlyExclusive launched its program in late 2019. Jet Edge and Thrive started their first consumer programs last year.
Jet Access has said it will launch a jet card program this year.
So, if you are looking at this list from a consumer’s perspective, there’s good news. Despite current supply issues, more operators seem set on developing direct-to-consumer membership programs.
Still, the top 30 companies control just 53.9% of the market, with 45.1% held by the top 10.
There are over 600 operators with at least one jet on a charter certificate, according to Tuvoli.
That means that smaller and midsized brokers will be looking for new options as big players use newly acquired fleets to serve their membership customers. It also means that we will likely see smaller M&A deals as bigger players continue to add capacity in a market short of aircraft.