Today airlines are in a defensive promotional position trying to demonstrate how their unique seating arrangements are more comfortable and crowds more tolerable. For the wearied business executive tired of poor on-time performance, airport congestion and carry-on baggage hassles, the claim from the airlines' PR agencies of an added inch in leg room offers little comfort. Even the privileges of the forward cabin are lost and forgotten in the experience that precedes every departure and awaits every arrival. Over the last ten years, airline business travelers would be hard pressed to identify any significant improvement in their airborne life styles besides ticket-less travel and suitcases with wheels.

Once touted as being for only the rich and famous, it is little wonder that the private jet has become one of the fastest growing segments of the transportation industry. Technology has delivered new and extremely effective communications tools including email and video-conferencing that, surprisingly, have only increased the need for business travel. Smaller companies now have access to a national and worldwide market place that was previously the exclusive territory of the corporate Goliaths and their private flight departments. Like improved communications tools, the use of chartered executive jets has helped level the playing field to where the 'deal maker' is frequently the personal meeting "old things are new again."

Boeing and Airbus have acknowledged the tremendous growth in the corporate jet market by developing custom versions of their transport category aircraft solely for the business aircraft owner. Additionally, large numbers and new models of the more traditional executive jet have entered the market in the last 10 years in response to the increased demand. Competition among manufacturers as well as improvements in design and engine performance has made it possible for these aircraft to offer a truly cost effective alternative for today's business leaders hindered by the airline's malaise and the limited cities they serve.

Once limited to only major corporations, political leaders and celebrities, nearly all corporate travel managers and travel agencies are hearing the cry for a 'better way' through the use of chartered jets. In addition to the common requirements for increased privacy, security and schedule flexibility for the key executives, many companies are expanding the availability of private jets in order to attract and retain the much sought after and competitive talent in their respective industries.

While becoming much more common, the mystery of owning or chartering a private jet still exists among newcomers. Most are very surprised to learn that chartering a jet is as simple as arranging for a rental car. Even owning a private jet is a far less challenging than many would imagine. There are many qualified management companies who can assist in the selection of a proper aircraft and its purchase. After the purchase, the management company can provide a "turn-key" service that includes arranging crew, maintenance and insuring the aircraft is available for the owner's use.

Chartering, like renting, remains the most popular alternative to ownership. There are signs that this alternative will become even more common among executive travelers in the future. The newest evidence is the development of companies marketing available seats on charter aircraft between major hub cities. Soon the major airline reservation systems will have the access and option of chartering jets when arranging travel plans for business travelers requiring a 'better way'. While not a significant threat to the airlines, it will surely be of interest to a large number of their elite frequent flyers for whom an extra inch of leg room falls short of flying to their next meeting in the total comfort, convenience and privacy of an executive jet.

George Walker is the Executive Director for Petersen Aviation in Van Nuys, California. He can be reached at (800) 451-7270

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