Offering First-Class Passengers A Better Ride
By Elliot Borin, Air TaxiFlights.com
North American Jet CEO Ken Ross talks about his company's Chicago-based VLJ "Q Service" and much, much more.
There are taxicabs and there are limousines.
According to Microsoft Encarta, taxicab companies provide vehicles and drivers available for hire on short notice and offer service that is "more flexible than other forms of public transportation such as buses, subways, and streetcars that have fixed routes."
Encarta, perhaps as a legacy of Bill Gates' egalitarian past, has never heard of limousine services, but the business report experts at Research & Markets.com define them as "establishments primarily engaged in providing an array of specialty passenger transportation services ... generally on a reserved basis and not operated over regular routes and on regular schedules."
While those definitions sound very similar and the basic mission of both services -- getting passengers directly from exactly where they are to exactly where they want to be -- is the same, there is, as we all know, a quantum difference between taxicab companies and limousine services.
Very light jets entered limousine -- as opposed to air-taxi -- service, last August when North American Jet received FAA approval to launch its Eclipse 500-based Q Service and became America and the world's first company to carry paying customers on VLJ aircraft.
Unlike air-taxi operators which own their aircraft and use a seat-based pricing model, North American, a major aircraft management service provider for over a decade, runs Q Service with aircraft it manages for third-party owners and offers one-way, per-plane VLJ pricing that's remarkably comparable with first class airfare for three people flying commercial between major airports on the same route.
To find out more about Q Service, which North American expects to expand nationwide within two years, we talked to company CEO Ken Ross.
ATF: How does Q Service differ from the more traditional charter services you've been offering all along?
Ken Ross: We operate a lot of light jets -- Learjet 35s, mid-sized Sovereign 680s super mid-sized King Air turboprops -- using a standard charter business model. For Q members, we have paired cities and offer one-way pricing for the whole aircraft. There's no federal excise tax, no minimum hours that you have to buy to fly on a daily basis, no cancellation fees, no deadhead returns charge if you don't come back on the aircraft, no overnight costs to hold the crew and so forth.
It's simplified pricing for the entire aircraft, which is way different from traditional charter as well as being incredibly more economical.
ATF: Do you use any of your light or mid-light jets for Q service?
Ken Ross: No. We only use VLJs in the Q program, they're the only aircraft that have the qualities necessary to make simplified pricing a reality. The older light jets, generally anything above 12,500 pounds, have operating and maintenance costs at least twice as high as the fixed and direct operating costs of VLJs.
ATF: Looking at the Q Service route map on your website, there doesn't seem to be a lot of those small, out of the way community airports that most people expect VLJs to serve. Why is that?
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