A new business known as Jet Republic just announced a $1.5 b. order for new aircraft, on Sept. 23.

Run that by me again? An airline is buying $1.5 b. in planes, when all the other airlines are cutting back and cancelling flights and grounding planes? (Even Ryanair just announced it would ground more planes than planned during the winter off-season). 

Well, it is not exactly an airline. Jet Republic bought 110 LearJets. These are small private planes that carry about 7 people. Businesses who don’t want to buy their own plane, perhaps because this is seen as a luxury expense, can buy as little as 1/16 of a LearJet, or book 25 hours of flight time a month. The LearJets of Jet Republic fly point to point, mainly in Europe, wherever the client wishes to go, without queues or changing planes at hubs. A flight hour costs about $7,000. But for each of seven people that works out to about $1,000. Not far from business class fares. But the service is far far better. 

We teach that global managers see opportunity where others see crisis. Jet Republic (based in Portugal) CEO Jonathan Breeze, a former Royal Air Force pilot, says that the “crisis in financial markets even strengthens the proposition”.   

We also teach that innovation often lies in the business model, not in the technology. Jet Republic has built a new business model. It looks very powerful indeed, because it meets a real need. Senior executives work 80 hours a week, and every hour is precious. Save them an hour, you save them much money and more important, you give them time with their family. “Time with family” is a key feature that Jet Republic offers, rather than “time in the queue and at the hub waiting for the next plane”. 

There are nay-sayers. Analyst Chris Tarry says that “at a time when corporate are cutting back their travel policies and the European economy is weakening, it is hard to see why they are doing this now.” Well, Chris,  as TIM Chair Lester Thurow wrote, in his recent book title: Fortune Favors the Bold. We wish Jonathan and Jet Republic success.    

* source: Times Online, Sept. 23, 2008.