How not to get burned when you buy a private jet membership

Jet Card

Lawsuits, closures, bankruptcies and lack of transparency show the challenges consumers face

In the two years since I launched Private Jet Card Comparisons, I’ve been surprised by the number of bankruptcies, closures, lawsuits, and lack of transparency in private aviation. In Europe, Wijet liquidated its UK subsidiary while Surf Air closed its entire operation there. Zetta Jet filed for Chapter 11 and then Chapter 7, leaving bills estimated at between $50 million and $100 million. ImagineAir just closed shop without notice. Both JetSmarter and Ascension Air find themselves facing unhappy customers, including lawsuits. Of course, there have been other failures before, including Avantair and Blackjet to name just two fairly recent ones.

How not to lose on your private jet membership

To help you avoid the same pitfalls, here are some tips I put together. While they may not be foolproof, I think they are helpful to keep in mind:

JetClass sets by-the-seat private jet flights for the winter season

While Surf Air has pulled out of Europe and JetSmarter has none of its own flights scheduled, JetClass is seemingly making its by-the-seat semiprivate jet service work

 

By-the-seat private jet airline JetClass is increasing the frequency of its top-performing route between Zurich and Luxembourg, and adding flights between Vienna and Strasbourg, two cities in the heart of Europe which had never had a direct flight nonstop before, the company said in a press release.

Surf Air launches new Surf Air Express membership model via Indiegogo

The all-you-can-fly membership club is now offering a pay-per-flight model, including an Indiegogo funding campaign

 

It hasn’t been a good year for Surf Air, but as the saying goes, sometimes you win just by showing up, and it seems the California-based pioneer of all-you-can-fly Netflix memberships is going to offer a new twist it is marketing launching Surf Air Express as it soldiers on.

JetClass launches Bern flights after SkyWork bankruptcy

JetClass is carving a niche in semiprivate private jet flights in Europe

 

Following last week’s bankruptcy of Swiss airline SkyWork, JetClass announced it is starting by-the-seat private jet flights from Bern, Switzerland. JetClass said it has put in place a new on-demand service, accessible through www.jetclass.com/bern, that utilizes the company’s AI-powered software to match passengers with the next available scheduled shared private jet flight. 

European jet card and charter operator Wijet to cease operations (updated) or restructure?

Earlier this year Wijet said it was ordering 16 new HondaJet aircraft to expand its charter business. Now, it’s future is unclear.

 

Updated (June 29 – 6:45pm): 

Patrick Hersent, the Group CEO of Wijet, has exclusively confirmed to Private Jet Card Comparisons that the UK side of the business will enter receivership on Monday. He said he resigned two weeks ago and officially leaves the business tomorrow, Saturday and staff were notified of the company plans today. He said the European side of the business will continue, however, he is not sure of the final plan. The UK side, which represented the former Blink, held the group’s Air Operator’s Certificate, issued by the UK authorities so even if the French side tries to continue it would have to negotiate both airplane leases and find an operator with an AOC, he says. Hersent said he is not aware of what’s owed to consumers or vendors. He said the decision was made by the Supervisory Board however, he declined to comment further.

Updated (June 30 – 7:11am) – We received the following email from Alexandre Azoulay, a co-founder of Wijet – including a press release dated for tomorrow July 1, 2018:

The Wijet Group (Luxembourg) is keeping its continental Europe operations going as usual. The UK subsidiary – one of many in the group –  is being shut down progressively because of the uncertainty caused by the Brexit. Wijet will roll out its new fleet in the next weeks and reposition its entire operations in the EU in view of Brexit.

Blackbushe, July 1st 2018 – Wijet Holding Luxembourg is announcing it is giving up its British Airline Operator Certificate, previously obtained through the Octobre 2016 acquisition of Blink UK limited . The operations of the group’s British subsidiaries are halted, as ground and air operations will be progressively transferred to Continental Europe- based partner operators.

This decision comes fifteen months after the acquisition of Blink UK, in which the Ogden family was a major shareholder. The company was found to never have been profitable, with an aging fleet of aircraft and a cost structure not fit to on demand air charter. Integration issues also triggered inefficiencies that could not be solved for. The doubts around the deadline of March 2019 from the EASA accelerated the decision to look for a solution to contionue operating flights within the European Union. Intra UK flights accounted for less that 10% of the group’s sales.

The Blink brand will disappear, and the Group will refocus its resources to the only Wijet brand, a landmark in the European business aviation landscape since 2010. Wijet was first to introduce a fixed price per flight hour in business aviation. It is also the exclusive partner of Air France for last mile connections to and from the Charles de Gaule hub.

Most recently, The Wijet group struck a deal with Honda Aircraft Corporation to introduce a new generation of aircrafts, the H420, which better matches the requirements of clients for on demand charter.

Updated (June 30 – 12:38 pm)

After a telephone conversation this morning, Wijet has provided us an additional statement from Jean Francois Hochenauer who is the Chief Operating Officer of Wijet:

“The UK market accounts for only 10% of our business, and with Brexit moving forward, it will be less significant. In terms of shutting our U.K. operations, it is like General Motors, they may shut one plant, but they are still continuing in business. Or it’s like a single Marriott hotel closing down, that doesn’t mean Marriott doesn’t exist anymore!

“We could have easily gotten another AOC in the EU, but we are moving from a full stack airline, with everything from operating aircraft and maintenance, to a model like Wheels Up, where they have their fleet of aircraft, but outsource all the operations to a partner, in their case GAMA Aviation. This is a much scalable and efficient operation. We plan on taking delivery of the HondaJet aircraft we have ordered. They will be flown by partner operators in the EU, which we will be announcing in the coming weeks. The aircraft will have the Wijet brand and will be operated by the name of the operator on the side, so they will be Wijet branded.”

Original article starts below:

Three separate sources have told Private Jet Card Comparisons that European on-demand private jet charter and jet card membership operator Wijet has informed its staff, including pilots, it is planning to wind down operations over the weekend, and it is understood the company may be placed into receivership as early as Monday. (Wijet has said that the wind-down will be for its UK operations per the above). A Wijet employee reached via telephone in Paris said the company is still operating flights and requested questions be directed via email, which have yet to be answered. Private Jet Card Comparisons has not been able to view any of the internal to staff emails.