London, England, September 23 2010 – Light jets can certainly offer commercial opportunities for charter operators, but you need to understand your target market, fly the jets in a mixed fleet and be an economic realist.
LEA currently operates seven Cessna Citation Mustangs, within an overall fleet that includes mid-size, super mid-size and large-cabin aircraft. The company is also adding the Embraer Phenom 100 light jet to its charter fleet.
Speaking at ‘Light Jets Europe 2010’ in Oxford (UK) today, Margetson-Rushmore said: “I believe that light jets are commercially viable for charter operators, but only as part of a sensibly-balanced overall fleet. Not only must you operate a mixed fleet of managed and owned light jets, but you must also ensure those light jets are part of a diverse total fleet offering larger business jets too.
“A fleet of light jets alone will be particularly vulnerable to uncontrollable variables, such as interest rates, maintenance costs, exchange rates and fuel pricing – minor fluctuations in which could have a major effect on the low-margin strategy of the business.
“And a customer’s needs may change from one day to the next. How can you offer a personal service, and maintain a long-term relationship with a customer, if you cannot meet those changing needs through a diverse fleet?
“Dependable customer service relies on operating a sustainable business model. Putting all of your eggs in one basket – flying a fleet of light jets alone – would be a very brave decision.
“Light jet charter operators cannot expect an easy life of low costs and high profits. We have seen ups, downs and failures in the market, from the start-ups to the established players. But well-managed and hard-working charter operators can undoubtedly turn light jets into a commercial success as part of a mixed overall fleet. People will remain cost-conscious even when we can finally put the recession behind us, and then light jets could really start to thrive.
“You need to understand the needs of private jet passengers, their reasons for flying, and whether the size of the aircraft is an important factor to them,” continued Margetson-Rushmore. “Our experience tells us that even people who have become used to flying in larger business jets are happy to use a light jet if a smaller aircraft suits their requirements for the journey. Initially, there are sometimes issues of perception that you need to address – answering basic questions like ‘Does a heavier jet mean a safer jet?’, ‘How many engines?’ or ‘Are there two pilots on board?’ – but when you have answered those questions, and passengers have flown in the jet, their minds are soon put at rest.”
High-resolution photos of LEA chief executive Patrick Margetson-Rushmore may be downloaded here.