Charting New Directions in the Life Cycle of Private Aviation Usage — Originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, March 2018, Volume 28, No. 3.

When I began my career in the aviation industry 20 years ago, the “life cycle” of private aviation consumers was fairly straightforward and predictable: first, they sampled non-commercial aircraft travel by chartering, then they moved into fractional ownership and, eventually, whole aircraft ownership if the demand existed. 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 at a given time until that provider could no longer satisfy their requirements.

For a variety of reasons, this conventional life cycle of the private aviation buyer no longer exists. There has been a revolution in private aviation options and platforms, creating many new alternatives that did not exist 20 years ago. 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 of time and often skip the fractional ownership step. Additionally, many private aviation consumers have become much savvier and depend on a combination of multiple aviation solutions to fulfill their various travel needs.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

When a private aviation buyer 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 provider, contemplating whole aircraft ownership, or resolving dissatisfaction with a current service provider, there is no standard answer as to what program or option 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
2. Destinations
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 (on time performance, working entertainment systems, interior condition and amenities)

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 charges by the hour (not on commission). The consultant can help the buyer consider the key factors mentioned, explore the various options and evaluate the solution that makes the most sense for the customer’s mission. When selecting the consultant, it is important to confirm that they do not receive any referral fees or other types of compensation by referring one program over another. The buyer must be sure the consultant is making their recommendation based solely upon the client’s 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 of the changes that are occurring in the marketplace. However, even if you read all of the marketing literature, you can’t truly understand a program, the “enhancements” it offers and the performance of the provider unless you place multiple users into a specific program on a regular basis. That is why an experienced consultant can bring tremendous value to a buyer evaluating private aviation solutions. And 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. 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 and chart your own path based on the solutions that best suit your unique travel needs.

Please contact Amanda Applegate at 310-392-5200 or aapplegate@aerlex.com.