Private Jet Programs: Looking Beyond the Clever Marketing

Forbes Asks James Butler for His Thoughts on New Fractional Operator Volato

Bethesda, Maryland • September 2021

Forbes asked Shaircraft CEO, attorney, and fractional program expert, James Butler, to look at one of the latest fractional operators to hit the scene, Volato. The company, whose website teases prospective buyers with “the opportunity to fly for free,” is trying to carve a space in the very light jet market using the fractional ownership model. 

The program touts no fuel surcharges, repositioning fees, or flight minimums, NetJets-like service, and guaranteed availability. That all sounds great; however, in order to accomplish this, Volato (like many other operators) will rely on third parties when demand exceeds capacity and will leverage its fleet for charters and a jet card program to increase utilization and profitability. In other words, a lot happening behind the scenes. Before investing in any program, it’s crucial to understand what recourse you'll have if your provider does not live up to its end of the bargain. 

As Butler tells Forbes, "Most people are looking for an executive airline they want to call, get a plane, and go where they want to go. They are not looking to be in the airline business.” That’s where Shaircraft comes in. We sit on your side of the table. We know what to look out for and what questions to ask. We also know where there’s room to negotiate, so we can get you the best deal. 

Ultimately, it is the contracts, not the enticing marketing materials, that will govern your rights and obligations. The documents may look simple, but private air travel arrangements involve complicated legal, regulatory and liability issues, and substantial dollars. Fractional jet providers have, over time, moved from a business model in which you enjoyed cost certainty to one in which the contracts shift more and more variable cost risk to you. The more risk – financial, legal, etc. - you assume, the more important it is that you have experienced legal counsel review and negotiate these contracts. (Learn more about why you’ve got to have an attorney on your side when considering a jet program.)

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