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18 Dec, 2006

Intrusive Security Helps Private Jets Boost Marketing Pitch

The growing exasperation of upmarket travellers with intrusive, arbitrary and constantly changing airport security procedures has provided a golden opportunity for marketers of private jets to step up their sales pitch.

David Savile, CEO of the U.K.-based company Private Jet describes the experience thus: “Far away from scanners, and security staff asking me to surrender my bottled water, half-strip and join 500 others in the crushing experience of a typical airport terminal, I relaxed in my seat and unwound for an experience that was more akin to being in a private dining club than flying on an airliner.”

Private jet manufacturers and operators are targetting Asia big time, with its huge number of secondary airports, large distances between cities, growing economies, the rapid-transport requirements for multinational companies and growing legions of time-poor, cash-rich executives.

Although the customer profile is exactly the opposite to the low-cost airline phenomena, private jets are another ready source of cash flow for airport operators, especially in view of the ongoing discussions about the future of Don Muang.

Private jet companies are initially targetting Japan and China where the needs are said to be just as high and the number of private jets far fewer than in Europe and the United States.

Although private jets comes in various shapes and sizes, and can range in the vicinity of £6m for a Learjet, the primary marketing pitch is focussing on the time-savings and reduced hassle factor.

At a recent conference in Thailand, Prithpal Singh, principal consultant of Executive Jets Asia, presented comparisons of a sample one-day itinerary for a busy CEO between Singapore and Jakarta/KL on a regular commercial flight vs an executive jet.

The biggest savings in time were to be made in the trips to, from and through the airports, especially as the private jets would be landing at the old Seletar, Subang and Halim airports, all of which are much closer to the inner city than either of the new airports in the three ASEAN cities.

Said Mr Singh, “An executive jet not only reduces flight time by providing point-to-point service, they decrease the block or total travel time because they are able to utilise smaller airports closer to final destinations. Also, the office environment of a business aircraft allows travel time to become productive time.”

He spent a good deal of time clearing up what he called “common misconceptions” about corporate jets, such as the distances they can cover, their susceptibility to bad weather conditions, their comfort levels and expense of ownership and maintenance.

At the annual National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando last October, speakers projected 24,000 private jet sales worldwide over the next two decades.

The ever-lengthening security queues in US airports are adding to the appeal. David Savile says that “the ‘check-in’ process consists of saying ‘hello’, handing over my visa waiver slip to leave the US, walking 20 paces to the aircraft steps and climbing aboard; no ticket, no formalities and my passport information already precleared.”

He says, “A decade ago, 75 per cent of those appearing in the Sunday Times 500 Rich List had inherited wealth; today 75 per cent are self-made. And there are ten of thousands of individuals with private wealth exceeding £5m in the UK alone.

“In today’s cash-rich, time-poor society, the strong work ethic results in high pressure business interspersed with power leisure breaks even on peak travel dates.”

Major airlines are sensing the potential impact on their bottom-lines as the lucrative front-end business traffic begins to look for alternatives – and joining the bandwagon.

In March 2005, Lufthansa and SWISS launched a private jet service to augment their global network and dense frequencies by starting a private jet service to about 1,000 airports in Europe, linking them to hubs in Frankfurt, Munich or Zurich.

From either of these hubs, clients can transfer onto a long-haul Lufthansa or SWISS to destinations worldwide or arrive on a long-haul flight and switch to a private jet for the onward connection within Europe. Since April 2006, the service includes destinations in Russia.

When making the connection, private jet clients are picked up by a limousine and driven to a First Class terminal where they can work, or watch movies, surf the Net, have a shower, or eat specially prepared meals – all while their baggage is transferred and passport controls. security checks and customs formalities are completed.

According to a Lufthansa spokesman, a private jet flight from Munich to Lugano, in southern Switzerland, for example, costs €5,295, €7,518 or €11,605 depending on the aircraft type. A maximum of ten people can travel on each plane, and each passenger is awarded 10,000 miles.

All of the sales pitches are conveniently overlooking one critical factor: a private jet’s fuel emissions and the environmental damage contributing to climate change.

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