““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
CitationShares becomes CitationAir
CitationShares has changed its name to CitationAir by Cessna and widened its focus beyond fractional shares. Products under the Greenwich, Conn. company's umbrella include CitationAir Jet Card (formerly Vector), CitationAir Jet Shares (formerly Citelines), CitationAir Jet Management (formerly JetForth) and CitationAir Corporate Solutions. The new branding strengthens CitationAir's relationship with Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer Cessna, which owns 92 percent of the company and expects by next year to absorb the 8 percent still owned by TAG Aviation.
Virgin Charter Closes Down
Virgin Charter, an online booking service for private aircraft that Sir Richard Branson launched with great fanfare in March 2008, ceased operations in October. A notice on the company's Web site said that "our technology platform was ahead of its time and...we've made the difficult decision to close our doors."
Sentient Introduces Online Charter Site
Sentient Jet now offers an online charter marketplace, privatejets.com, that allows users to directly request a quote. A sales representative for the Weymouth, Mass.-based company will then respond, offering a variety of jet types and pricing options. Privatejets.com has access to nearly 1,000 Sentient-certified charter jets and plans to feature a live-chat option, a blog and news feeds.
Bucking trends in the overall economy and business aviation, Avantair reported revenue gains for its full fiscal year, which ended in June, and fourth fiscal quarter. The Clearwater, Fla. company, which provides fractional shares and flight cards in Piaggio Avantis, reported revenues of $34.1 million in its fourth quarter, up 8.6 percent from the same quarter in 2008. It also said it had quarter-over-quarter gains in fractional-industry market share and charter cards sold. It did report an operating loss, but a smaller one than in the same quarter last year-$684,000 versus $2.1 million. For the full fiscal year, Avantair had revenues of $136.8 million, up 18.3 percent from last year, and operating income of $38,000, compared with an operating loss of $16.6 million for 2008.
NetJets Cuts Back
In the wake of the departure of founding CEO Richard Santulli, fractional-share market leader NetJets announced a variety of cutbacks in response to what it called "the severe economic conditions facing the aviation industry." The company, which recently relocated to Columbus, Ohio, will reduce its workforce by about 5 percent and "take other actions to reduce expenses." Some of the cost-cutting measures are being implemented at NetJets Europe, which has appointed P. Eric Connor as its new CEO and chairman and announced that it is cutting its workforce by 6 percent, or about 100 people.
Embraer launches Legacy 650
Embraer has announced the addition of the $29.5 million large-cabin Legacy 650 to its business jet lineup. The 650 is expected to have a range of 3,900 nautical miles, 500 more than the Legacy 600. Embraer anticipates having the airplane certified in mid 2010 and plans to begin deliveries in the second half of the year.
Ride-Sharing Program Debuts
The recently launched Greenjets Inc. coordinates flights for business jet travelers with the same departure and arrival points. The idea is to save passengers money while reducing air traffic and using less fossil fuels. The company serves Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Washington, New York and Florida and plans to add about 30 other areas by the end of 2011. The program is available through a phone system or by joining the Jetogether online network.