Originally Published by Business Jet Traveler.
While the COVID-19 crisis has affected all sectors of aviation, some companies are recovering quicker than others. One that claims to have already returned to pre-crisis levels is Partners In Aviation (PIA), which was founded in 2016 to match people who wish to share in the purchase of a private jet.
“Everything kind of went silent for 60 to 90 days,” said Mark Molloy, PIA president and an industry veteran of nearly four decades, “but now we’re actually getting a little bit of a COVID bump in terms of inbounds and folks that have made the decision [to fly privately]. They basically say they’re not going to travel with 250 of their closest friends anymore…and they’re looking at options.”
The process begins when people contact PIA with an interest in sharing ownership. Based on its existing contacts and research, PIA will then search for a geographic match. Typically, according to Molloy, they are familiar with private aviation, having come from jet card programs, or perhaps they even previously owned a small airplane and want to move up to a different class. In another scenario that’s becoming more common since the start of the company, existing aircraft owners seek to take on a partner, possibly due to their own reduced flight hours. “They’re not ready to give up on what they’ve become used to, but they’re down to 75 to 125 hours a year, and that gets hard to justify,” Molloy told BJT.
Since it began, PIA has seen its arranged partnerships change. Initially, they involved just light jets but, said Molloy, “folks that are coming out of jet cards or membership programs are often more accustomed to larger-cabin aircraft. He added that “right now it’s super-mids and mids where most of the activity is.” Molloy estimates that the three size categories currently each represent a third of PIA’s business and notes that the company has overseen transactions on aircraft ranging from an SF50 Vision Jet to a Challenger 605; as of press time, it was working on its first marriage involving an ultra-long-range jet. The company declined to note exactly how many matches it has arranged thus far.
“A lot of folks want to get a third or fourth person, but our belief is this works really well if we keep it in between the lines of this legal structure, which is two low-time users and one airplane, professionally managed,” said Molloy. That management is a crucial part of the process and is mandated by PIA. The company has preferred aircraft management partners it can recommend to customers, or they can choose their own, based on mutual agreement. PIA recommends enrollment of the aircraft in engine-care and parts programs. The two sides will also determine whether the aircraft will be placed on a charter certificate.
The initial term of the owner partnership is three years. “There are options to exit pre-term if you need to because life happens, but those options are such that you may not see the full fair market value of your interest,” Molloy said. “What we tell people is if a three-year commitment is not something you are comfortable with, it’s probably not the right program for you.”