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NetJets announced two brand-new hangars today—one in San Jose, the other in Denver—to accommodate growing demand for private jet travel. The hangars at Norman Y. Mineta International Airport (San Jose, California) and Centennial Airport (in the greater Denver-Aurora area) will house private jets from the NetJets fleet and provide full-service amenities to NetJets owners and customers. While NetJets has always flown to the west coast and maintained a west coast presence with a southern California hangar, these brand-new outposts are in opportune locations for their rapidly expanding client base.
Building additional 35,000-square-foot (San Jose) and 15,000-square-foot (Denver) hangars, both of which are expected to be open and fully operational by fall 2020, is part of NetJets’ broader real estate plan, partially honed by trends observed in 2020. Of course, as Patrick Gallagher, president of NetJets sales, marketing, and service points out, investing in hangars in Denver and the Bay Area is also partially the result of availability. But more so, it’s part of their “long-term strategic real estate plan for where we want to have hangar space, and as opportunities avail themselves, we take advantage,” says Gallagher.
Gallagher notes that both destinations are in NetJets top 15 locations in terms of overall traffic this year. “The Bay Area generally is one of our strongest markets in terms of our overall market share relative to our competition,” he says. “And Denver, particularly as we head into ski season, becomes a very timely location for us as well.”
NetJets has observed some very notable shifts in private jet travel, not only in terms of how their client base has responded to the pandemic, but the growing interest in flying private from neophyte jet travelers. “There’s been a definite shift from business to leisure as a percentage of our overall demand,” says Gallagher. “Pre-pandemic, I would’ve told you we operate about 50-50 in terms of business travel versus leisure travel.”
Now, NetJets customers fly for personal and leisure travel approximately 80% of the time and business travel accounts for only 20% of their private flights. As such, NetJets has seen some of their leisure travel hubs clock significantly more traffic than in previous years; Naples is their fifth most popular airport this year, compared to the 13th most popular last year. Their Scottsdale, Arizona and Santa Ana, California (Orange County) airports are also on NetJets’ top 10 most popular flight destinations of the year—not the case for either destination in 2019. In contrast, Las Vegas, a classic business destination, particularly for trade shows and conventions, was consistently a top-10 destination for NetJets and has dropped to 18 on the list of most-flown-to airports in 2020. Within the leisure travel space, NetJets is also seeing a keen interest among customers to head to mountain destinations (Gallagher has seen an uptick in traffic to Yellowstone, Telluride, Jackson Hole, and Bozeman, Montana) or regularly fly to their second homes via private jet.
In terms of the trend skewing toward personal travel, Gallagher attributes that in large part to their customer base tripling this year.
“It’s not so much that our existing clients are flying more due to COVID, it’s that we’ve added so many more [clients],” says Gallagher. “Year to date 2020, we’ve added almost three times as many new customers to our roster as we did at the same point last year—and last year was a very good year for us.”
Gallagher points out that while it may seem like a fleeting trend when private jet travel is on the rise amidst a pandemic, NetJets is used to seeing longevity in their client base. So he doesn’t anticipate a drop-off following this period of heightened interest.
“It’s not necessarily people who are running to private aviation because they’ve got an underlying health concern that necessitates them avoiding crowded public spaces like airports and commercial airlines,” says Gallagher in regards to their client base tripling. “What I think it is, more so, is people who probably had the means to fly private before COVID-19 but didn't see it as a luxury they needed, and now are viewing it as a necessity.”
And it's those customers who are ultimately likely to stay in the NetJets family now that they’ve made the switch to the private aviation lifestyle. Because, in Gallagher’s words, “Once you’ve flown privately, it’s difficult to go back to LaGuardia.”