March 9, 2017:
Flexjet has taken delivery of its first jet in Europe in the form of a Nextant 400XTi, and CEO of the company's UK operations Ray Jones says that everything has gone to plan so far. "It is our nature to say less and deliver more," he comments.
"At EBACE last year we announced that we were working towards the acquisition of an AOC. We didn't say too much more beyond that, but we did identify that that was the first step in the process.
"That was concluded at the end of July with the purchase of FlairJet, which we were really pleased about. It worked for us in so many ways, principally because of the cultural alignment between the two companies. There are lots of things that you look at when you make an acquisition, but if you don't have cultural alignment it becomes a very difficult thing to achieve. With FlairJet we are delighted with how that has gone."
The next task he faced was to adjust the business of FlairJet and incorporate it into Flexjet, a process which lasted six months. "As we went through that it is fair to say that we completed it a lot quicker than we thought we would. The first of our dedicated fleet is here now, earlier than expected, and we have come a long way in a short space of time with more success than we anticipated."
Flexjet's principal aim is to serve its installed base of US clients and as part of this goal, FlairJet will be absorbed into the brand in the near future. "We want to continue to provide them with the aircraft they need when they arrive in Europe, under the promise of the Flexjet brand," says Jones. "It is all about extending the service and providing a dovetail solution for our own clients.
"This aircraft works very well for us in many ways. When bringing an aircraft of any size to Europe, one really has to listen to the market. It is a very price-sensitive market, there are no two ways about it, and it is pretty much flat in growth at the moment. Whatever you do with whatever sales model and aircraft you have, everything has to be price sensitive. Without that it is difficult to be successful."
The first 400XTi was delivered by Flexjet sister company Nextant Aerospace and refurbished by Constant Aviation. Flexjet is a subsidiary of Directional Aviation which owns Nextant Aerospace and Constant Aviation. In terms of engineering and interior design, it is intended to pave the way for future Flexjet jets. "It is difficult to put such high quality interiors into little aircraft, and what Constant has managed to achieve here is exemplary," Jones continues. "I haven't seen too many aircraft of this quality. This is our benchmark and it is set very high.
"It is a super aircraft in terms of performance. If we price it right, we could be on to something. The capacity that this aircraft offers is going to work well in this market, and I think clients are going to be happy with it."
Flexjet's second 400XTi is due to be delivered soon and the third one just a week or so behind. Beyond that, it is going to be a case of reacting to the market. "We are keeping our powder a little bit dry at the moment, but we can move quickly. The one thing that we can say is that we intend to bring in large cabin aircraft, a little sooner than we had planned, by the end of the year. That is largely driven by what we are being asked to deliver.
"Our fleet will not have fixed bases as such. FlairJet operates from Birmingham, but the roving model is what we are looking at, for wherever the business may be. I think the 400XTi will find its own place in the market. It is a 2,000 mile machine and fast, and while it is not the only jet that falls into this category, it is certainly cost-effective. It will be able to compete across a number of categories, rivalling both larger and smaller types.
"What people really care about is the experience they get for what they are paying."