Las Vegas, the venue for Super Bowl LVIII, could be synonymous with the private jet business heading into 2024. After all, you arrive with high expectations and some money in your pocket. You leave a winner or a loser, and sometimes with a hangover, no matter how much money is left in your bank account.
However, five companies initially seemed to pull trump cards, at least from a PR and marketing perspective.
At the top of the list is Overland Park, Kansas-based Airshare.
In June 2018, it signed a quarterback entering his second year in the NFL who had started as spokesperson one game into his rookie season.
Patrick Mahomes has taken Airshare’s hometown Chiefs to six straight AFC championships, four Super Bowls and, later today in Las Vegas, a potential third Lombardi Trophy.
The company used the future Hall of Famer when it expanded into Florida last year.
While that may seem like a small thing, finding new customers for fractional and jet card flight program vendors is like looking for needles in a haystack, something that is becoming more expensive and challenging in an increasingly fragmented media environment where the UHNW goal is more difficult. than ever to achieve.
NetJets drew an ace for a different reason.
It was during last year’s Big Game that the nascent mid-contract negotiations between Berkshire Hathaway’s unit and NJASAP, the union representing its pilots, came into the spotlight.
During an adjacent PGA golf tournament in the Phoenix area, the pilots launched a picket campaign.
The pilots have said that without a substantial increase (NetJets has offered a package that would provide a 52.5% compensation increase) a significant number would move to more lucrative pay with the major airlines, which have signed record-breaking contracts.
Since December, NJASAP has begun invoking Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett in their advertisements and press releases, mocking their employer.
More recently, they raised safety concerns with an ad channeling the Alaska Airlines exit incident.
It was in response to a letter from NetJets’ lawyers to the union alleging self-help, an illegal attempt to influence negotiations.
NetJets provided an 11-page analysis showing increased fatigue calls and potential mechanical issues reported, leading to the plane’s grounding.
Former executives who were there during previous NJASAP negotiations say there is significant gamesmanship.
For example, a pilot waited until the passengers were loaded with luggage before declaring that he could not operate the flight, rather than doing so at an earlier time.
Likewise, maintenance issues apparently occurred more often away from bases where technicians could quickly assess the situation.
NetJets has said that customers have not experienced increased mechanical problems and fatigue complaints so far. However, they have been costly to the company.
The contracts guarantee a replacement aircraft at no extra cost to the customer, so in the short term and at low traffic airports this will be slower and more expensive.
On Friday Private Jet Card comparisons reported that NJASAP had reached an agreement in principle. While neither the company nor the union have confirmed this, comments on several pilot chat boards indicate that a framework has indeed been found.
It’s undoubtedly an asset for NetJets, especially during the busiest event of the year for private jet flights.
Before the deal closed, NetJets and NJASAP nemesis Kenn Ricci, the chairman of rival Flexjet, also started his Super Bowl weekend with an ace.
Ricci sued NJASAP in 2018, alleging that the union organized a campaign of intimidation during a (successful) vote to decertify another union at his company.
This time, he posted on social media a thank you to a videotaped NetJets pilot, saying that under the current circumstances he thought Flexjet would be a better place for fellow pilots he mentored.
Another early trump card was dealt to VistaJet yesterday, as it gained brand advantage from the world’s most notable Chiefs fan.
A flurry of stories showed a VistaJet Global 6000 taking off from Tokyo, where Taylor Swift had performed, and landing at Los Angeles International Airport.
An NBC report even described the private flight provider as “the world’s only global private aviation company.”
Representatives for Swift and Vista did not confirm whether the singer was on board.
However, famed jet tracker Jack Sweeney says Swift’s Falcon 7x never went to Tokyo.
Instead, it flew from her home in Nashville to Burbank, near where she also has a home.
Gain 100% brand awareness among millions of people Swifties may not mean more sales, but from a marketing perspective it is certainly a good thing.
Wheels Up apparently also had an ace up its sleeve.
After bankruptcy predictions last year, the company has secured a $500 million investment backed by Delta Air Lines.
Delta says the private flight membership business is an integral part of what it wants to offer its corporate and high-net-worth customers.
Far from the scrap heap, it was back for its annual trip to the Super Bowl, hosting member events, including its signature pop-up restaurant Rao’s, and a day serving local food banks.
Of course, one good card or hand does not make up for a weekend or a year.
Craig Ross of Aviation Portfolio, which monitors private jet management companies’ and fractional providers’ service levels and billings for their clients, says San Francisco’s comeback in the NFC Championship game has put additional pressure on the industry.
“The 49ers have a lot more fans who fly privately than the Lions,” he says.
More than 1,500 private jet customers and owners are expected to fly to and from the Super Bowl.
And there have already been losers.
One private jet, which missed its slot when a passenger was 20 minutes late, ended up being delayed by five hours.
“The biggest challenge is not the arrivals. They are rooms,” says Ross. “If you miss your slot, you can wait until Tuesday.”
While later tonight the Chiefs or the 49ers and their fans will be able to enjoy the next six or seven months, private aviation may experience some bumpy skies.
Supply chain and working conditions issues persist as operating costs rise, all against the backdrop of declining demand.
Climate protesters continue to step up efforts to ban private jets.
However, the sector could use some courage. During the Corporate Jet Investor At last week’s conference in London, three advocates of closing business aviation who were invited to speak said they did not specifically mention the sector.
Cruise ships, first and business class cabins on planes, luxury hotels and Taylor Swift concerts are also on the list of activities they would like to see banned.