How Wealthy Passengers Choose To Fly: Part 3 – Confidentiality And Value
- Erika Armstrong
There is a tipping point. In that moment, when a passenger with a strong financial portfolio makes the decision to buy, charter, join a membership, or fraction of a corporate aircraft, there are factors to push that decision, and they aren't always obvious. When a passenger has the power to captain how they travel, there is a hierarchy of needs that need to be met, but beyond that, the variables are every flight department's challenge.
With the competition of capitalism, there are now options within the circle of each set price range that drive decisions. In a recent Jet Traveler Report¹, it was determined that there are five basic characteristics of motivation that influence how wealthy passengers chose to fly and which method(s) of flying would best fit that perspective: time, control, safety, confidentiality, and value.
In part 1 of the series, we looked at time and control.
In part 2, we looked at safety.
Now let's take a look at confidentiality and value.
The Ultra High Net Wealth Individuals (UHNWI) don't make it to this level (investable assets of at least $30M) without drawing attention to themselves, so that is the last thing they want when traveling. Unless the jet is painted to advertise or draw attention, most owners keep a low profile while traveling. Personal security and confidentiality is an important amenity.
Their Perspective Leads To This Choice: Membership, fractional ownership, and on‑demand charter have the ability of providing security and anonymity. Ownership does too, but an airplane with flamboyant paint jobs and identifying N numbers are a commitment to not being able to travel confidentially, so some of these owners may choose to charter to maintain discretion, especially while traveling with children. Commercial airline travel offers no anonymity if you are easily recognizable. Part of the security perception is seeing familiar crewmembers, so having an unknown crewmember can present a problem despite their qualifications.
UHNW individuals know how to pinch a penny. Being smart with money is how they got there, so a perceived value is important, but the problem is that it is also an opinion. According to the Jet Traveler report, "Three essential elements feed into cost effectiveness. The first one is the level of wealth of the flier (wealthy individuals) or their seniority (business leaders), the second is the frequency of flying, and the final element is the type of flight." The progression is generally from first class airline flying, to ad‑hoc charter, to fractional/membership to ownership.
Their Perspective Leads To This Choice: Of course, ownership is the most expensive option. Most owners know how to work tax laws and depreciation to help make this a valuable and necessary asset, but paying for this is justified by placing cost value on time and ultimately flexibility, which is priceless. Fractional ownership helps by defraying the cost of outright ownership, but monthly maintenance fees might be hard to justify when the aircraft is not being used. Charter requires no upfront costs, but initial charter quotes can increase as extra routes are added or mother nature throws the need to deice and hangar on a few overnights. Chartering is still significantly more expensive than first class, but the other amenities outweigh the price tag. Commercial first class is the most cost effective as long as you're willing to share your airplane with a couple hundred other people.
For every flight department, whether you are operating Part 91 or 135, it's important to remember that one passenger's request for Peach Snapple with seven ice cubes and a pickle is the next passenger's garbage. There are so many variables to their wants and needs that it's best not to guess. Ask, listen, and remember is the mantra to a success.
¹ The Jet Traveler Report 2018, "The Global Perspective on Who Flies Privately and How". (May 2018)