Flexjet owners are flying high in and out of the Naples Municipal Airport.
They’re the first ones to experience a Flexjet-exclusive private terminal. It’s the first of several planned at airports where Flexjet sees the greatest demand for flights.
“Naples is one of our top destinations, especially during this time of the year. So we have selected Naples to be our launch spot for this type of service,” said Megan Wolf, Flexjet’s vice president of owner experience.
The terminal has been open a few months, but Flexjet has kept it quiet until now. Hundreds of flights have already brought many of its owners through it. It’s yet another way the company is working to improve on its fractional aircraft ownership services by giving its customers the royal treatment (it rolls out the red carpet for arrivals and departures).
Flexjet offers partial ownership of its planes. A common ownership plan costs about $575,000 for five years. That gives owners access to 50 hours of flight time a year, costing them anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 an hour, depending on the size and capabilities of the plane they choose.
In Naples, owners now get a more intimate, personalized experience. They don’t have to mix in with other passengers at the general aviation terminal and they don’t have to go anywhere else on the airport, unless they have to clear U.S. Customs.
At the private terminal, there’s fresh fruit and fresh baked goodies, a full bar, and a lounge where Flexjet owners and pilots can talk, read a magazine or watch TV. Down the hall, there are bathrooms with local touches, including hand soap made by a Naples-based company, and a shower for freshening up. There’s a conference room with desks, phones and Internet access, along with a large meeting table.
There are still a few empty rooms at the terminal complex, which may become sleeping quarters for flight crews. A play room for children may soon be added for its youngest flyers.
The terminal includes covered parking and passengers’ cars are detailed while they’re away. If the cars are low on gas, they can be refueled on request, or if they need maintenance they can be brought to the dealer.
In Naples, Flexjet had it easy finding the right place for its private terminal. It’s leasing the 23,131 square foot hangar and adjacent office building from Arthur L. Allen Jr., the founder and former president and CEO of ASG Software Solutions Inc. in Naples, who no longer needs it. The office already had lavish touches and looks virtually the same as it did before, only the furniture has been moved around and the name on the buildings has changed.
The hangar complex is one of the largest on the airport, said Ted Soliday, executive director of the Naples Airport Authority, which operates the airport.
Flexjet’s move into the private terminal has taken some pressure off the airport’s general aviation terminal, which is beneficial, especially during the busy season, he said.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Soliday said. “It’s a new venture and economics all work in there.”
Luxury doesn’t cost as much as it used to, he noted, thanks to lower fuel prices.
Flexjet is not without competitors. One of its biggest is NetJets, a wholly owned subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and it is the largest fuel customer and largest operator at the Naples airport, working out of the general aviation terminal.
Flexjet plans to open its next private terminal at the Westchester County Airport, to serve a heavy concentration of its owners who live north of New York City. Though the company has plans for more terminals, there isn’t a magic number, Wolf said.
“We have no set number because we’re really looking for the right opportunities for what our owners want and for the locations our owners are looking for,” she said.
Flexjet has also been upgrading its jets and in September launched a Red Label offering, designed to make its customers feel like they are the only owners of their plane. Features include crews dedicated to a single aircraft and newer aircraft with artisan interiors. Customers choosing the offering have access to the Learjet 75, Challenger 350, the Embraer Legacy 450 and the Gulfstream G450.
Flexjet’s fleet has some of the youngest planes in the fractional jet industry, with an average age of about six years. Some of the other planes in its fleet include the Embraer Phenom 300 and Challenger 605.
“We see about a 50-50 split between personal and business travel,” Wolf said. “It’s more toward personal use when flying to Naples.”