In recent years, however, with the global downturn affecting every social and economic strata, this perception has begun to shift, with the industry conjuring new ways for clients to save money whilst retaining the cachet of private aviation.
First there was the idea of fractional ownership – a model that had already gained traction in the property industry – but more recently another concept has emerged that continues to make serious headway in what is a competitive and fast-moving marketplace.
The trailblazers in question are Unity Jets, and one of the brainchilds behind the company is Kevin Diemar. Six months after speaking with Mr Diemar in Miami, we sat down with him again to find out how his innovative business is progressing.
Superyachts.com: It’s been half-a-year since we last caught up with you – can you tell us how things have been progressing at Unity Jets?
Kevin Diemar: Business has been very strong over the past six months. We added two members to our team, and continue to deliver the value and service that our business was built upon. The industry has seen significant changes, with two fractional firms exiting the business, providing further credibility to our ‘no commitment’ business model
SY: When we last spoke we seemed to still be at a stage where Unity’s business model was the new kid on the block trying to make inroads into the traditional market. Has there now been a shift?
KD: Yes, there has been a huge shift. Two major players in the jet card/fractional space left the business. One firm is unwinding and focusing on being a manufacturer, while the other quickly shut down their entire business, leaving its fractional owners with no service or access to the fleet. Because of this customers are coming our way; they fly when they want and have no capital at risk. We made it very simple: pay when you fly, no long contracts, no assets to worry about.
SY: Is the structure of the business still the same in terms of key personnel?
KD: Business structure is still the same. As I mentioned earlier, because of our growth we have added two new folks to the team. Our number one mission is to continue to deliver best in class service. For this reason we brought in two pros to work on the operational side of the business and make sure we never miss a detail.
SY: For those unfamiliar with Unity model, can you remind us briefly how it works and the kind of real terms savings people can make using your service?
KD: Our model is simple. Clients call or email us with the specifics of their trip (dates, destination, number of passengers) and we come back to them with the best solutions in the market that meet our safety criteria. We will then make a recommendation based on a number of factors. Once the client decides to move forward with an option, they simply sign a one-page agreement and pay only for that flight. We are saving clients 20 to 25% versus fractional and jet card models, while giving them complete flexibility.
SY: Can you tell us a little about your marketing strategy?
KD: Our space is crowded, and everything we do - from our service to our website to advertising – is done to differentiate ourselves from our competition. Nothing about Unity Jets is similar and we try and convey that message through our marketing. No one in the business has the team of professionals we have put together. We are proud of our accomplishments and expertise and aren't shy in letting clients know.
SY: Where are your current key markets and are you planning to expand your reach into emerging markets such as China?
KD: Key markets continue to be the United States, Caribbean, and Europe. We have seen strong demand from South America, and more requests from our clients flying to China.
SY: How much success have you had reaching the superyacht community?
KD: I would say mixed. We have a number of clients who have yachts and use of service. Many superyacht owners also own jets, but have reached out to us for family members to meet them in certain locations such as the Med and Caribbean. I believe there is huge overlap and look forward to working more in the superyacht space.
SY: Finally, what do Unity have planned for the rest of the year?
KD: We are entering our busiest time of the year, with a ton of business and holiday activity. We plan to continue to grow and look forward to connecting with your readers at this year's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show!