YES! Private Jet Rental Is Big Business

Despite the tightened security measures that are now common in the aviation industry, the private jet rental companies are coming up with new ways to attract passengers unhappy with airline cutbacks, delays at airports and other inconveniences of scheduled commercial flying.

These companies offer the facility to fly closer to final destinations or to smaller airports instead of major hubs, and even the ability to change plans during a flight. There are also the kinds of special perks, like pickups and meals from a clients’ choice of restaurant, that appeal to well-heeled travelers, some of whom are being lured away from airliners’ first-class seats.

Who Are the Private Jet Rental Companies?

New York-based Marquis Jet Partners decided to link with Berkshire Hathaway-owned NetJets in 2002 to offer clients access to any one of NetJets’ fleet of more than 500 planes. It has attracted about 1,000 members, who buy flight cards to a particular plane for $110,000-$300,000 for a minimum of 25 hours.

Another company, Sentient, based in Norwell, Mass., offers flight cards and has about the same number of members. But instead of its own fleet, it uses chartered planes. Flight cards enable travelers to buy time on private jets. Travelers can also be fractional jet owners, purchasing a piece of an aircraft, with the burdens and benefits of actual part ownership like tax deductions on depreciation.

Customers of companies like Marquis buy use of a specific aircraft for a set period of time. They pay for it accordingly — more for a larger or more luxurious aircraft. Sentient customers buy chunks of flight time on a plane the company charters or rents for a given flight.

According to the National Business Aviation Association, the number of fractional jet owners grew from 3,834 in 2000 to 5,827 in 2002, and the number of planes in fractional programs has increased from 696 to 776.

For business airplane manufacturers and fractional aircraft operators, the downturn in the U.S. economy is like bad weather far below jets climbing in smooth, clear air. Orders for aircraft are robust and many well-to-do individuals are joining the thousands who enjoy the convenience and superlative service of private jet transportation.