Cleveland-based Directional Aviation recently announced a restructuring within the company, transitioning its Flight Options brand from a fractional provider to an on-demand operator. This will effectively leave two national fractional providers: Flexjet, which is also part of the Directional Aviation family, and Columbus-based NetJets.
Launched in 1998, Flight Options was the first private jet company to offer pre-owned fractional aircraft. It has won multiple safety awards over the years and, in 2006, became the first fractional operator approved by the FAA for participation in the Aviation Safety Action Program. In 2009, Directional Aviation acquired an interest in the company. Directional also acquired Flexjet in 2013.
Although there are several other companies that offer fractional shares in various aircraft, these are regionally-focused, and tend to have fleets of turbo-props, light and mid-size jets. Flight Options, Flexjet, and NetJets stood out in the market for their national coverage and their offerings of super mid-size and large jets. The Flight Options fleet included pre-owned and remanufactured aircraft, so it tended to be a more affordable alternative to the other two nationals.
A Flexjet spokesperson says that the restructuring is in response to changes within the private jet marketplace, which is showing a demand for fractional travel using large-cabin, long-range aircraft, and on-demand travel, which typically uses smaller craft. The changes will allow them to provide a complete range of services to their clients. The company has emphasized that it is not ending the Flight Options brand saying:
While both brands (Flight Options and Flexjet) are trusted and strong, we chose to make Flexjet the dominant brand and wind down the Flight Options brand. Our vision was to take the very best elements from each company and combine them to create a brand that will be uniquely positioned to become the leading fractional provider in the country.
For the foreseeable future, Flight Options will continue to serve existing Owners. The Flight Options DNA – our commitment to service and passion for aviation – is an essential part of the new Flexjet.
The Flight Options fleet will continue to be made up of its existing fleet – the Nextant 400XT, Citation X, and Legacy 600, and there are no plans to add any new aircraft. Some of the aircraft that were in the Flight Options fleet, such as the Phenom 300s, have already been transitioned to Flexjet. The remaining Flight Options fleet will transition from fractional use to on-demand charter, with some aircraft also being available for use by Skyjet, Directional’s charter branch. Meanwhile Flexjet will be Directional’s sole fractional provider, while continuing to offer jet card and leasing services.
Flexjet was formed in 1995 but was bought by Directional Aviation in 2013. Directional immediately expressed their intention that Flexjet be positioned as a luxury brand, and set about upgrading the fleet to match that goal. In 2014, the company boosted its fleet with a $1 billion purchase of long-range jets from Gulfstream. The deal made Flexjet the exclusive fractional provider for Gulfstream. In late 2015, another major fleet announcement came: this time the company became the first private operator to commit to buying 20 Aerion AS2 aircraft. Billed as the first supersonic business jet, the AS2 is expected to enter service in 2023.
The departure of Flight Options from the fractional market means that anyone looking for a share of a super-mid or large, heavy jet now has two choices: Flexjet or NetJets. Depending on your travel profile and things like your financial appetite for depreciation through your books, it may be that owning is not the answer for you. If that is the case, there are multiple companies offering jet cards and charters in super-mid and heavy jets, as alternatives to owning.