08.09.2008

LEA sees economic slowdown prompt 'downsizing' trend in private jet chartering

London Executive Aviation (‘LEA’), one of Europe’s largest private jet charter operators, reports that two clear trends are emerging in the charter market as the economy slows.  At the top end, there continues to be strong demand for large cabin private jets by Very High Net Worth Individuals, whose lifestyles appear unaffected by the economic malaise.  However, in the corporate market, many businesses are downsizing to a new generation of small, four-passenger jets in order to conserve travel budgets.

“The charter market looks to have come off its recent high, but demand is still well ahead of traditional levels.  That suggests that people have really embraced private jet chartering as a time management tool,” says chief executive Patrick Margetson-Rushmore.   “What stands out in particular is that, rather than stopping flying, businesses are downsizing to smaller, greener jets.”

“With the advent of the latest small aircraft, customers are rightly choosing not to pay for jets larger than they need – the average group size is 2 to 3 people, so why waste money on acres of empty seats?” he says.  “Companies don’t want to spend Rolls-Royce money on BMW journeys.”

The economic slowdown has coincided with the introduction of a new generation of entry level business jets, generally termed Very Light Jets, or VLJs.  The first fully operational aircraft in this class is Cessna’s Citation Mustang, and in June 2008 LEA became Europe’s first Mustang fleet operator.  These new aircraft offer the time-saving benefits of private aviation in a more compact, affordable package.  A Citation Mustang can fly up to four passengers non-stop to virtually any European destination, at speeds approaching 400 mph; however, with Mustang charter prices 30 – 40% below those of conventional mid-size jets, private jet travel can now be had for the same price as a turboprop aircraft. 

“When we ordered our Mustang fleet five years ago there was no way of knowing how the economy would be today,” says Margetson-Rushmore.  “However, the current climate really plays to the aircraft’s strengths.  For the average European private flight the Mustang should be your weapon of choice.”

LEA also operates a range of large cabin and super midsize aircraft, including the Embraer Legacy and Bombardier Challenger 300, which remain in demand with the wealthiest travellers.  “P Diddy may have gone back to scheduled airlines, but there are plenty who haven’t,” says Margetson-Rushmore.  “The best-heeled customers are still prepared to pay for spacious cabins, advanced in-flight entertainment and ample baggage storage.  Once you’ve flown at that level you don’t want to go back - there would have to be a spectacular financial meltdown before these customers considered queuing at Heathrow.”

High resolution images of LEA’s Citation Mustang jets are available upon request from 80:20 Communications or at www.vismedia.co.uk.

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