Virgin Charter Ceases Operations
Another Online Charter Agency Fails
In a classic example of the failure of the “One Size Fits All” philosophy, Virgin Charter has ceased active operations. According to a company statement, “…due to the severe decline in corporate travel, Virgin Charter was unable to generate sufficient sales to underpin its business plan and has taken the difficult decision to close its doors.”
Richard Branson’s Virgin USA launched Virgin Charter in mid-2007. Their model allowed charter users to make all arrangements via Virgins Web Site. The business model was to charter aircraft owners/operators a fee based on a percentage of sales, but the buyer did not pay to use Virgin Charter
We’ve recently seen the demise of two of the larger names in the charter business, Jets.com (formerly Charter Auction) and now Virgin. Market conditions are certainly a major factor in the nationwide slowdown for charter agents and operators; however the business model that loudly proclaims to allow users to book charter jet solely online misses the point of private aviation.
Anyone can cruise the web to find accurate pricing for a private jet charter from New York to Aspen or Menlo Park to Las Vegas, but few will ultimately click to purchase an item with a $20,000 ticket price. The consumer wants to know details and speak to someone knowledgeable that can act as a consultant for him. The online booking model works great for the airlines, because it’s all about filling seats, flying profitable routes at maximum capacity, rigid timelines and schedules, and keeping costs at an absolute minimum, while minimizing consumer flexibility.
Private aviation is different, and we should embrace that difference, not try to turn flying by chartered jet into a JetBlue experience. This business is about providing personal relationships, flexibility, safety, security, and industry knowledge to those fortunate individuals who are in a position to consider a private jet alternative for their travel. As the owner of a boutique private jet charter agency, I am saddened to learn of the demise of Virgin Charter, but at the same time – you can’t make consumers conform to your business model. After all, if anyone could have made online private jet charter successful, Virgin’s and Branson’s reputation and brand-name recognition should have made them the one.