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20 Years of Bizav Flight Access

Here are some of the key changes we’ve witnessed in the private aviation field in the two decades since Business Jet Traveler began publishing.

When Business Jet Traveler debuted in 2003, its readers already enjoyed a range of access options. 

Executive Jet Airways had pioneered management services for owners and jet charter for on-demand customers in the 1960s, and in 1987, after changing its name to NetJets, it introduced fractional-share ownerships. That segment powered business aviation forward. By 2000, you could buy a share in a new jet directly from Bombardier (Flexjet), Cessna (CitationShares), or Raytheon, manufacturer of the Hawker, Beechjet, and Premier (Travel Air); you could also choose a private program such as Nicholas Air, Executive AirShare (now AirShare), or Directional Aviation’s Flight Options. Meanwhile, investor Warren Buffett had bought NetJets through his publicly traded Berkshire Hathaway. 

The rapid expansion of the business jet fleet resulting from demand and production spurred the access market’s evolution. The jet card, a gussied-up form of block charter that Sentient Jet first brought to market, also dates from the turn of the century. 

Many programs and access options have appeared in the two decades since BJT began publishing, however, and there have been notable start-ups and shutdowns. Here’s a look at some key developments over the period. 

Avant Air


  • Avantair launches a fractional-share ownership program around the roomy and economical Piaggio Aero Avanti P.180 twin turboprops, “lowering the cost of private aviation to a broader range of consumers.” The Nasdaq-listed, Clearwater, Florida firm would become the world’s largest Piaggio Avanti operator. 
    Thomas Flor


  • Swiss financier Thomas Flohr founds charter operator VistaJet (née Air Executive). The following year, the company would launch service in Europe with three owned and operated business jets under Maltese registry.


  • The Teterboro, New Jersey takeoff crash of a Bombardier Challenger 600 operated by Platinum Jet Management injures 20 and reveals criminal violations of FAA Part 135 rules, prompting calls for more oversight and regulation of the charter industry and leading to prison sentences for the company’s principals.


  • Intent on taking advantage of economies of scale, JetDirect Aviation launches its plan to create a nationally recognized charter brand and quickly acquires nearly a dozen well-known charter operators and some 300 managed aircraft. 


  • DayJet, the would-be shared-flight pioneer, inaugurates regional service with a fleet of Eclipse 500 very light jets from its Gainesville, Florida headquarters, harnessing both the revolutionary VLJ and proprietary software developed to coordinate customer demand and schedule DayJet’s flights. Facing operating and financial problems, it would close less than a year later.
  • The Air Charter Association of North America is established by five charter brokerages to promote best practices, ethics, and transparency within the unregulated air charter industry, and stave off greater federal regulation. 
  • Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin USA launches Virgin Charter. It would close late in 2009, citing insufficient sales.


  • California-based XOJet introduces transcontinental one-way fixed-price fares—$19,000 coast-to-coast and $12,000 between the Northeast and South Florida—aboard its owned and operated Cessna Citation X fleet, upending an industry accustomed to providing customers with opaque and costlier charter pricing. XOJet would later admit that its point-to-point fares were priced below cost until about 2013, as competitors had long said and grumbled about. 
  • VistaJet acquires Skyjet International, Bombardier’s charter program, with bases in Farnborough, U.K.; Dubai, U.A.E.; and Hong Kong, to support global service, and orders 35 Bombardier business jets worth $1.2 billion, the airframer’s largest single order to that date.
  • The first flight-sharing websites debut, among them JetCharterPool, Jet-It-Together, and Cogo Jets—the latter founded by moonlighting Jet Linx Aviation CEO Jamie Walker—aiming to let members propose and arrange shared charter flights. Organizers acknowledge the challenge of creating the critical customer mass needed for viability.


  • Following the collapse of DayJet, its largest client, Eclipse Aviation, on whose wings the VLJ revolution rode, is liquidated and its assets auctioned in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. 
  • Unable to consolidate and manage its newly acquired aircraft—and reeling from the Great Recession’s impact on business aviation—JetDirect declares bankruptcy, leaving large sums owed to unsecured creditors and broken charter operators in its wake.
  • The National Business Aviation Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and International Business Aviation Council unveil the Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change, whose goals include reducing the industry’s carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2050. The reduction target would be raised to 100 percent in 2021.
  • JetSuite (née Magnum) launches the industry’s first all-light-jet charter service centered in Southern California aboard Embraer Phenom 100s, offering low-cost access, with an airplane—not just a seat—priced as low as $999 from Van Nuys to Las Vegas, and flight time at about $3,000 per hour. 
    Green Jets
  • Per-seat pioneer Greenjets launches “more environmentally, socially, and fiscally responsible” shared charter flights linking New York, Chicago, South Florida, and Boston. Memberships cost about $7,000 annually, providing access at about $3,500 between New York and South Florida. 


  • Delta Airlines rebrands Delta Air Elite, its charter arm, as Delta Private Jets and introduces a jet card, stamping commercial aviation’s imprimatur of approval on business aviation’s mass-market potential. 
    Delta Air Elite
  • OurPlane, a program for the Cirrus SR-22 piston single that launched in 2000 with hopes of attracting private pilots to fractional ownership, shuts down, citing economic conditions. 


  • Presaging the industry’s post-recession revival, NetJets places a $6.7 billion order for Bombardier Challengers and Globals. It would double down the following year with a $9.6 billion order for up to 275 more Challengers. 
    NetJets Global


  • Shanghai hosts the first Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, co-sponsored by the Asian Business Aviation Association and the U.S.-based National Business Aviation Association, heralding the opening of the People’s Republic to general and business aviation.  
    ABACE 2012
  • Hawker Beechcraft declares bankruptcy. Under restructuring, it rebrands as Beechcraft Corporation and ceases production of Premier and Hawker business jets, though the latter platform would remain a staple of the world’s charter fleet. 
  • JetSmarter introduces a mobile booking app, providing pricing and direct links to providers, and memberships offering perks including free shuttle (shared) flights and empty legs, and helicopter transfers in select cities.


  • Aiming to “democratize private aviation,” Marquis Jet Card co-founder Kenny Dichter launches Wheels Up and introduces a membership-based program that charges an initiation fee and annual dues and provides fixed-hourly-rate access to its fleet. The company commences operations with regional service aboard King Air 350i twin turboprops. 
    Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up
  • Directional Aviation, whose Flight Options fractional program fleet features refurbished rather than new aircraft and lags the industry leaders, buys Flexjet, Bombardier’s fractional ownership program, and orders $2.4 billion worth of its Challengers and Learjets.
  • Operating a fleet of Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops, California’s Surf Air introduces the subscription-based “all you can fly” shared-flight charter model, with access to its network of California-centric locations limited only by the number of reservations each of the tiered membership programs provides, with inclusive monthly fees starting at about $1,650.
  • Amidst shareowner lawsuits and incidents that included an aircraft shedding parts in flight, Piaggio Avanti fractional ownership program Avantair declares bankruptcy and ends operations. 
  • NetJets unveils its Signature Cabin Series, incorporating customized design and outfitting features, as the new standard for all its future deliveries. Bombardier’s Global 6000, the launch platform for the cabin, boasts ostrich-embossed leather upholstery, African Sapele wood surfaces, brushed steel metallic trim, and a stateroom.


  • Having already exited the fractional market, CitationAir by Cessna (née CitationShares), the manufacturer’s one-time fractional/charter program, ceases operations. 
    Citation Air


  • Wheels Up takes private aviation to the mass market, selling jet cards through Costco and sponsoring winning racehorse American Pharaoh in the Triple Crown’s Belmont Stakes. 
    Magellan Jets card
  • Magellan Jets introduces the “design your own” jet card, choosing perks and add-ons such as waived peak charges or category interchange fees, free category upgrades, flight-charge minimums, and fuel-surcharge discounts.
  • Flexjet launches its premium Red Label LXi aircraft, with more than 25 custom cabin designs, and each aircraft flown by its own dedicated crew.


  • JetSuite launches JetSuiteX (now JSX), a new “public charter operator” model, offering scheduled shared flights aboard airline style, all-first-class 30-seat Embraer 135 jets from general aviation terminals. Fares on its West Coast route network are as low as $109 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with no membership required. 
    JetSuite X
  • Flexjet opens its first private terminal, in Naples, Florida, reflecting growing industry focus and investment in upgraded ground services and improved customer experience.


  • Amid a global uptick in demand, several charter operators, including Priester Aviation, Wheels Up, JetSuite, and XOJet, establish or expand their charter brokerage arms, more than one calling it the “fastest-growing, year-over-year” part of their business. 


  • The Department of Transportation issues regulations (Part 295 Air Charter Brokers) designed to increase transparency and strengthen consumer protections. The rules were developed partly in response to NTSB safety recommendations arising from the 2006 Platinum Jet accident. 
  • A year after the Honda Aircraft Company certified the HA-420 HondaJet, with its distinctive over-the-wing-mounted engines, Jet It—based, like the manufacturer, in Greensboro, North Carolina—launches a days-based fractional ownership program for the light twinjet. 
    JetIt Honajet
  • An onboard video of an unruly JetSmarter shuttle flight passenger threatening the crew and other passengers, forcing an emergency landing, goes viral. It heaps negative attention on shared flights as JetSmarter itself faces multiplying customer lawsuits alleging deceptive sales practices and unmet obligations.
  • As the launch customer for the Pilatus PC-24, a highly anticipated light twinjet, Boston-based fractional program PlaneSense adds the model to its previously all-Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop fleet.
  • VistaJet’s parent company, Dubai-based Vista Group, acquires XOJet and its fleet of midsize and super-midsize jets. 


  • Boeing announces that it is partnering with Aerion Supersonic, developer of the AS2, which aims to be the world’s first supersonic (Mach 1.4) business jet, with its first flight slated for 2023. The partnership would end and Aerion would close in 2021. 
    Aerion AS2
  • Vista Group buys reputationally damaged flight booking app JetSmarter, merges it with XOJet, and transforms the former midsize-jet operator into a mobile device-based on-demand charter brokerage, rebranded as XO.


  • The World Health Organization’s COVID-19 pandemic declaration in March craters aviation activity and threatens the bizav industry’s survival. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Paycheck Protection Program, passed that same month, provides some $666 million to business aviation and “helped avert an economic catastrophe,” says NBAA CEO Ed Bolen. 
    FAI Air Ambulance
  • With flight activity decimated by the pandemic, JetSuite files for bankruptcy, declaring it had never been profitable, and ceases operations.
  • Focused on sustainable travel, Florida-based operator VeriJet launches charter service using only single-engine Cirrus SF50 Vision Jets for efficient, low-carbon-footprint access.


  • Wheels Up goes public on the New York Stock Exchange in July under the UP ticker, the first private jet company to get a listing on the exchange.
  • Preparing for an expected urban mobility revolution, Directional Aviation’s One Sky Flight orders 200 eVTOLs from Embraer-backed Eve, to create door-to-door travel solutions for Flexjet and other Directional Aviation customers.


  • Shaking off COVID, business aviation records its highest annual number of charter and fractional flight hours—2,949,189, 5.5 percent above 2021, the previous record year.


  • Facing economic headwinds after rapid expansion, Wheels Up downscales its operations, and founder and CEO Kenny Dichter leaves the executive suite. 
  • Unable to pay for its aircraft or their maintenance, HondaJet fractional program operator Jet It, operator of the largest U.S. fleet of the distinctive twinjets, ceases operations.