Air Partner grows private jet sector as light jets struggle


Cessna Citation Mustang flying

Air Partner announces year-on-year increases in revenues and profits for its private jet sector.
Citation Mustang 600

Air Partner says the light jet market is “saturated.”

Air Partner saw private jet revenues increase by 22 per cent and underlying profit by 47 per cent in the 12 months leading up to 31 July 2013.

Sales and renewals for the company’s jet card grew by 35 per cent. “We have seen growth in the UK, the US and France,” said Mark Briffa, CEO of Air Partner. “We have also had good traction in Germany, Italy and Switzerland, where historically it has been weak.”

The company has grown its market share in continental Europe to account for around 2 per cent. “We have a significantly lower share of the private jet market in Europe than in the UK, which is why we have identified it as one of four strategic growth areas,” said Gavin Charles, CFO of Air Partner.

“We do not have data for the UK but we suspect our share may be up to ten times larger than in Europe,” added Charles.

Air Partner’s jet cards, which are “primarily geared towards high-net-worth-individuals,” according to Briffa, typically start at around €125,000 ($170,000) for 25 flight hours on a light jet.

Although Air Partner does not disclose its sales figures, the company revealed it has sold its first $1 million card to a US corporate client.

Briffa confirmed the widespread belief that the light jet market is still suffering. “It is saturated,” he said. “There is plenty of capacity; rates have not moved over the last two or three years.”

“I’m struggling to see how recovery will happen at the moment,” he added. Briffa pointed towards companies like VistaJet choosing to operate only larger jets. “I think we might see a few others do that,” he said.

Acknowledging the arrival of VistaJet into the US market, Briffa said he was unfazed and suggested that Air Partner could even see a pick-up in business from capturing disgruntled customers.

“It won’t affect our market share because it is still quite small,” he said. “We want to be the alternative when things go wrong for the bigger companies.”

“There’s absolutely no way we can compete with the size of their marketing budgets,” he added. “What we do have to help us is a royal warrant, a strong reputation and no debt.”

Charles drew attention to an independent report conducted by Conklin and de Decker in May 2013, which concluded that Air Partner provided a better jet card service than NetJets in four out of six areas and he further suggested that “the fractional scheme is broken.”

Fractional customers are leaving and their Plan B becomes Air Partner,” he said.

Private jets account for 19-24 per cent of Air Partner’s business, which announced a 31 per cent increase in underlying profit for the company in the 12 months leading up to 31 July 2013 and a 39 per cent rise across four strategic growth areas.