Flexjet Praetor 600
Flexjet Europe expects to have eight Embraer Praetor 600s in its fleet by the end of this year. (Photo: Flexjet Europe)

After Slow Start, Flexjet Europe Rapidly Builds Fleet

The fractional company loads up on Embraer Praetor 600s and Gulfstream G650s.

After experiencing turbulence due to the pandemic, aircraft fractional share provider FlexJet Europe has been maintaining a robust pace over the past year, building its fleet of super-midsize and large-cabin business jets. The unit of Cleveland-based fractional share provider Flexjet and parent company Directional Aviation had been hoping to take its first delivery of the Embraer Praetor 600 in first-quarter 2020 but the pandemic delayed its ability to introduce the super-midsize twinjet to existing and potential shareowners.

“We didn’t really go live with fractional orders until about a year ago,” Flexjet Europe managing director Marine Eugene told BJT. “It’s been a journey that has had to see us pivot [and] adapt to circumstances that were really unusual, but we’ve seen some really good success with the aircraft.”

In the past year, the London-based company has taken delivery of six Praetor 600s, and it will take another two before year-end. It also has added two ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650s during the period. Unlike its U.S. counterpart, Eugene said, Flexjet Europe doesn’t plan “at the moment” on taking any Phenom 300s from the $1.4 billion order the U.S. company placed for 64 Embraer Phenom 300Es and Praetor 500/600s in 2019.

According to Eugene, that’s because half the European charter market is light jets, and the competition is focused on price. From an economic standpoint, super-midsize and large-cabin business jets are “where our sweet spot is and where we can really earn our stripes in Europe,” she said. “By not going at the bottom end of the market, we set our identity as a premium operator.”

Eugene said Flexjet Europe had considered adding the Bombardier Learjet 75 as a light jet offering but decided it made more economic sense to stay with larger jets.

In addition to adding aircraft to its fleet, Flexjet Europe has been investing in other parts of the company, such as opening a control center at Farnborough Airport in the UK. The company chose Farnborough because “it’s a very premium private aviation airport” and half of Flexjet Europe’s customer base is in the UK.

While demand for private aviation remains robust, Eugene understands that can quickly change. “I’ve been in this industry long enough to know this is a cycle,” she explained. “We know this industry is made of highs and lows. And what gives a group like us a unique position is…we’re managing our growth in a sustainable way. Mr. [Kenn] Ricci [principal of Directional Aviation] knows how to protect the balance sheet of the business in case there was a U-turn.”

For now, all signs suggest the current level of demand will remain for the time being. “The market is still pretty high,” she said.