New buyers stick with cards

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The rise of “new private flyers” has been exciting to watch in the past year. The term is in quote marks as many had flown on a business jet before. Some had experienced business aviation through work and a large number had been guests onboard a friend’s aircraft. In 2020 they were prepared to pay.

The big question for anyone in charter was would they stay as customers? The good news is that they have.

Before Covid-19, Sentient Jet, the largest dedicated jet card company, typically sold one third of its jet cards to new customers with renewals making up the rest. From April 2020 to December 2020, this shifted to two thirds new and one third existing. Now it is equally split. “One thing to keep in mind is many of the card repurchases are from individuals who were new only months ago and, in some cases, first time flyers,” says Andrew Collins, CEO of Sentient.

Sentient ended 2020 with more than $450m in jet card sales. “We are also seeing a great deal of interest in our new Transatlantic programme with fixed rates on large cabin aircraft, as well as the expanded International fixed rate card for Europe and beyond,” says Collins.

But while the pool of customers has grown, the number of aircraft available for charter has not.

“This is definitely a market where supply is shifting and, on particular days, it can be more challenging,” says Collins. “We are one of the largest purchasing entities in the Part 135 market and this helps us as we work with our operator partners. We also have access to a core fleet of assets through our parent company, OneSky, so we have been able to meet the demands of our client base thus far this summer. If you are a smaller player in this market it might be a bit more difficult to run a structured, guaranteed product.”

While this means more work for jet card companies, it is even harder for customers to find flights – in turn pushing them to jet cards and memberships. Which is great as long as they can find charter. “It is clear that the travel boom will continue and this will have a significant impact on our industry,” adds Collins. “I do see a lot of drama and uncertainty in the market at the moment and suspect that we will see material changes that impact the competitive landscape.”

 

Growth on the cards: Sentient ended 2020 with more than $450m in jet card sales.

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