The fractional aircraft companies in North America flew over 760,000 hours in 2021. This was an increase of more than 50% compared to 2020, and up over 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The largest fractional operators are ranked and discussed below.
The table below shows the largest fractional aircraft companies in North America ranked by number of flight hours in 2021. The data is courtesy of ARGUS.
|West Coast Aviation Services||4,592|
|Northern Jet Management||3,396|
The order of the rankings is pretty much the same as in the last few years, with NetJets very much the largest fractional jet operator, representing more than 60% of all the hours flown, and second place Flexjet accounting for well over 20%. The only change in the hours rankings is between West Coast Aviation and Northern Jet Management who have traded places.
The overall fractional flights by month started to recover to pre-pandemic levels in the early Spring of 2021, and continued rising throughout the year. The graph shows the monthly data back to 2018, so you can see the massive COVID inflicted drop in April 2020, the quick bounce back and then ongoing rise in demand.
For the year as a whole, fractional aircraft flight hours in 2021 were at record highs and about 23% above (pre-pandemic) 2019 levels.
In 2020 the biggest drop in demand was seen in large cabin aircraft, due to the international travel restrictions. In 2021, as some travel restrictions were lifted, the demand for these larger jets, capable of traveling internationally, started to really return.
In addition to selling fractional shares, most of these fractional operators also offer jet cards on the planes in their fleets, and the hours here represent flights for both fractional owners and jet card holders. Many of the fractional (Part 91k) operators also have a Part 135 charter certificate, but in this data analysis all flights by a given fractional operator are assumed to be Part 91k.
NetJets is by far the largest private aviation operator with over 760 aircraft worldwide, including managed aircraft (through Executive Jet Management) in addition to its fractional fleet.
The company paused jet card sales in mid-2021citing “today’s unprecedented flight demand” and noting that this “allows us to continue prioritizing what is most important - delivering the best possible experience to all Owners.” Then in January 2022 they said “we hope to return to selling our full product lineup by spring.” To meet the unprecedented demand, NetJets announced they were adding over 125 aircraft by the end of 2022, representing an investment of approximately $2.5 billion, saying they were "growing our fleet faster than ever.”
Flexjet is part of Directional Aviation which also owns Sentient Jet, FXAIR and Private Fly, plus several other private aviation companies. It has been the second largest fractional aviation company for a number of years.
Flexjet is investing $850m in new aircraft, with plans to grow the fleet to 231 aircraft by the end of 2022. This is roughly a 40% increase from the total aircraft in their fleet in mid 2021. New planes will include Embraer Phenom 300s, Praetor 500s, Praetor 600s (in Europe), Bombardier Challenger 350s and Gulfstream G650s.
PlaneSense operates the largest civilian fleet of Pilatus PC-12 turbo-prop aircraft in the world, and in 2018 added the Pilatus PC-24 jet to its programs. The company has been adding both aircraft to its fleet with plans to add more in 2022. They also expanded the service area for the PC-12 to cover the whole of the United States.
Airshare offers both fractional shares and their Embark jet card, which both provide day based access to their fleet of Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 light jets and added Challenger 350 super midsize aircraft in 2021.
Calgary, Alberta based AirSprint has the largest fractional fleet in Canada, with over 20 aircraft, including the Embraer Praetor 500 and Legacy 450, Cessna Citation CJ2+ and Citation CJ3+.
Oxford, Mississippi headquartered Nicholas Air operates a range of aircraft from the Pilatus PC-12, to Phenom 100 and 300, Citation CJ3, Citation Latitude, and Challenger 300. The company offers shares, leases, cards and aircraft management.
West Coast Aviation Services
Headquartered at John Wayne airport in California, West Coast Aviation Services offers fractional ownership in the King Air 350, with a primary service area in the Western US.
Northern Jet Management
Michigan based Northern Jet Management offers fractional ownership in the Bombardier Learjet 45XR. Its programs are specially designed for travelers and businesses located in the Midwest and Florida.
Looking into 2022, ARGUS Traqpak analysts are forecasting 9.5% growth in flight activity in 2022 for total private aviation, including fractional flights, compared to 2020 numbers.
Travis Kuhn of ARGUS said “We expect business aviation to remain healthy in 2022. While we expect growth to slow in the Part 135 and fractional markets we still see them rising 4.9% & 1.5% respectively year over year. Under that scenario the Part 135 industry would be 24.3% larger in 2022, when compared to 2019. The Part 91 segment has the largest upside in the industry as it hasn’t fully recovered from the pandemic. We anticipate activity will rise about 8% in 2022, which would represent a 5% increase in activity when compared to 2019. Overall we’re looking at an industry, in business aviation, that is 15% - 20% larger post-pandemic.”
(In comparison, this article covers the largest private charter operators in 2021)