Monday, June 16, 2014

Jacksonville, Florida: Local businesses show trend of favoring AirShare programs to charter flights

Rising interest in flight sharing is helping a Jacksonville plane company increase its revenue while attracting more customers to it private jets.

About half of the customers of ASI Aviation who fly to the Bahamas have switched from charters to an airshare programs, in which customers pay a fee based on the type of plane they would like to lease and then pay for a set number of hours.

For 45 hours, the price ranges from about $35,000 to $101,000, depending on the plane.

While still pricy, the air share programs are cheaper than chartering a plane because the client is only paying a fee based on the hours used, not simply renting the aircraft for a trip.

ASI, which has a hub in Jacksonville, is riding a trend across the industry, in which the cost-effectiveness of the programs is attracting more customers. The company has doubled amount of flights by moving customers away from charters, said Elliot Mintzer, a pilot and Southeast sales director for ASI.

Revenue has increased by 13 percent in the past year as time in the air went from from 205 flight hours last year to 275 flight hours this year.

In an airshare program, a company pays for, say, 45 flight hours for the year. The company, its members and affiliates can use those flight hours to fly anywhere they need to, and only use their flight time when they are actually in the plane. This compares to a charter flight, where flyers must pay for the plane to fly to their destination and then back to the home airport.

Cheaper than charters, sharing programs are also more convenient than commercial flights.

"If someone is driving from here to Atlanta, that guy is probably worth about $300 to $400 bucks an hour," Mintzer said. "The nonproductive time [to drive to Atlanta] is about 5 hours, so that's $1,500 bucks in unproductive time, plus hotel and meals, so about two grand. Plus another $1,500 nonproductive on way back. You're looking at about $3,500."

Instead, four people can rent a plane for about $600, fly there in half the time and use the time on the plane to have a meeting, turning non-productive time into productive time. He said a three-day trip can be cut down to hours.

"With the amount of small local businesses that are utilizing private flights to further their company, that to me says it's the right way to use business," he said.

For Brian Soleil, president of Guana Partners -- a subsidiary of Guana Marina Management, which does development in the Bahamas -- and a customer of ASI Aviation, the savings were were worth it for the company to give up its private Learjet in favor of splitting 100 hours.

"It was more cost-effective even at 100 hours a year to participate in Elliot's share program," Soleil said. "It didn't have the outrageous costs of owning and operating a private airplane or airplanes."


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