NetJets brought aircraft fractional ownership to the region ten years ago, allowing individuals and companies to buy or lease a share of a private business jet at a fraction of the cost of whole aircraft ownership, and guaranteeing access to an aircraft with as little as twelve hours notice.
The US-based company is owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who was a NetJets customer before buying the firm in 1998. However, the company has been hit hard by the financial crisis.
In August of this year, it posted a quarterly loss of $253m and earlier this month announced plans to lay off 495 out of 3,000 pilots employed by the company worldwide.
‘There are an awful lot of people who have determined that operating an aircraft is probably more of a drain on their resources than they wish they would have at this particular time, and our business and the industry has certainly been affected by it,’ Graem Deary, head of business development for the NetJets Middle East Programme told AMEinfo.com.
Due to the downturn, NetJets has restructured its programme in the Middle East to make it easier for customers to join and make use of it. ‘What we have done is address a lot of the issues and concerns of getting into the programme by removing barriers of entry,’ he noted.
The company now offers the traditional NetJets fractional ownership JetCard in 25-hour increments, and is giving customers the ability to lease fractional shares for one to five years. ‘Strangely enough, more people go for the five-year option than the cheaper one-year programme purely because we guarantee our prices over the five years, something that no other operator offers,’ he said.
The JetCard, which starts at about $100,000 for a 25-hour increment, is the first of its kind in the Middle East. ‘For card holders, the flexibility of a 25-hour card means only being committed to the programme for a time that suits them, and with the flexibility of buying additional hours as needed,’ he said.
‘We’ve started selling a number of these over the past few weeks and the result is that now some of these people are moving into buying shares, so it is a good entry level for people to establish an ability to fly.’
He acknowledged that the company has had a difficult year across the globe, but he said the Middle East programme has not been affected to the same extent as other parts of the world.
‘People have started to reconsider their decisions on corporate jets over the past few months and we are seeing a strong interest now. We’ve signed a variety of contracts and we are confident that we will see a positive 2010,’ he said.