On Monday 3 February, the UK private aviation industry finally opens its doors to the public, who will then be able search, track and directly reserve private jet travel via an online consolidation site, Returnjet.
Over two thirds of the UK’s private jet fleet have registered to the world’s first ever system enabling end users to connect and book directly with the plane operators.
Operators expect the system to lower the cost of private jet travel by broadening their customer base, maximizing positioning opportunities and empty legs (where private jets fly empty en route to pick ups).
The launch follows a 18 month development by Returnjet Limited in consultation with BBGA members (British Business and General Aviation Association – the official body for UK operators).
It has been designed to ‘lift the lid’ off an industry sometimes perceived as serving just the super rich, by consolidating route movements and availability into one easy search, guaranteeing the public best prices without brokerage.
Peter Turner, Chairman of operator, Executive Aviation Services, reflects the industry’s support: “Returnjet are putting customer service into the hands of the people best placed to do it - the operator of the aircraft.”
The move is also welcomed by private airport operators. Robert Walters, Director, London Biggin Hill, explains: “The Returnjet model will help entice new users who have not yet experienced the time saving and business benefits of a business jet, and specialist Business Aviation airports such as Biggin Hill support that role as their primary function.
"By coupling customer travel needs directly with actual jet flight patterns, users will be able to utilise business jets in an efficient way that compliments the existing formats within the industry.”
1. How It Works
Returnjet is essentially a ‘dating site.’ Its complexity is in its ability to interpret operators’ live data feeds to match operator's real time and future jet positions and availability, thereby enabling it to effectively 'hail a jet' to suit the customer's travel requirements via one easy to use search engine. It then simply pushes the customer enquiry to the operator of the appropriate jet to book directly. To date, there is no such facility of its kind worldwide. Search results yield:
· Estimated prices (to +/- 10%) of jets best positioned and sized for search criteria
· Empty Legs (often bargains, where a jet is relocating or returning empty)
· Flexi Legs (the system identifies opportunities to incorporate empty flights wherever possible to meet customer requirements)
· Shared Legs (where a jet can be relisted with spare capacity for possible sharing)
2. Market Context
Currently, operators are served by brokers who operate in an unlicensed industry. There are hundreds of brokers but actually only 30-35 AOC licensed operators managing the UK’s entire fleet of private jets. In recent years, a few more progressive brokers have provided greater online transparency (most notably PrivateFly and Fly Victor) but to date there is no broker free comparison site connecting passengers directly to operators without any intermediary. In providing the end user total access to live information, it guarantees total transparency and best value and is expected to ultimately reduce the global cost of private jet travel.
3. Who Is Returnjet?
Mark Blanchfield, founder and CEO, started Epsilon, an electrical testing business, in 1993 and building it to become the largest of its type in the UK with multi million pound turnover, and many hundreds of employees by introducing new online technologies before selling in 2008.
The idea was born when he looked to book his family and entourage flights to Ibiza following the Olympics. Due to the UK exodus, Ryanair had hiked prices to nearly £500 per person and he realised it might be better value to book a private jet. On searching the internet he became confused between who was an operator and who was a broker, and realised there was no single hub to determine what jets were flying when, where and empty to the Balearics.
The software model has been developed in close consultation with operators and has attracted the support of BBGA and leading members who have contracted in, including Hangar8 (the largest aircraft operator in the UK and one of the top five in Europe) and London Executive Aviation (Operator of the Year 2013).
Following UK launch, Returnjet expects to introduce European worldwide operators’ fleets during the course of 2014.
4. Examples of Value Flights
We can provide examples of use of empty legs to provide private travellers excellent value. To date, c. 40% of private jets fly empty. For example, a Challenger 300 departs London at 11.30am Monday 23 February to pick-up passengers in Sion (50 minutes to Verbier). Inclusive cost for this empty leg: £3,000. This is an advanced intercontinental. It seats up to eight passengers in individual armchair seats that fully recline plus stewardess and crew. Entertainment includes DVD/CD player, iPod control integration and two large monitors with in-flight map displays.
On Tuesday 27 Jan the CEO of Returnjet used the beta system to attain an empty leg from Paris to Bristol to return his party of six from the rugby in Paris. The cost? £900!
5. Economical Impact – Background notes
· UK has one of the best networks of airports in the world / head due to world war history, with many smaller private airports with spare capacity
· 98% of private aviation pairings are not catered for by commercial airlines
· Jets are getting lighter and cheaper to operate
· Significant investment in private jet handling facilities by UK airport operators
· Tourist shoppers remain crucial to the British luxury industry
· Private jets are a critical transport mode for the luxury brand tourist
· Synergy between Walpole’s forecast that the UK luxury brand sector will double over next five years to £12.2 billion, and growth in private charter
· Whilst London remains the leading hub for luxury sales, 81% of luxury brands have a presence outside the capital
· The South East and North West remain the next largest regions. Manchester is the city that had the strongest luxury sales outside of London in 2012, followed very closely by Edinburgh
· Robust demand for luxury in cities such as Birmingham, Glasgow and York
· Whilst Americans remain the most important nationality of luxury visitors to the UK, the Chinese are considered the fastest growing group of luxury shoppers to the UK
· 45 new airports to accommodate growth in China’s latest five year plan (2011 – 2015)
Returnjet is an online consolidation site connecting AOC certified private jet operators directly to the end user, to provide instant information and guaranteed best prices and availability. It is launching in UK online on Monday 3 February following an 18 month development and industry consultation phase.
Returnjet expects to reduce the cost and increase the use of private jet travel worldwide by matching realtime customer demand with realtime plane positioning and occupancy.
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