Category Archives: NetJets

NetJets and Southwest Pilots’ Unions Seek Reversal of Norwegian Air Foreign Carrier Permit

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The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) in conjunction with the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP) are urging President-elect Trump to reverse the decision to grant Norwegian Air International a foreign carrier permit.

The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent decision came three years after NAI, an Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air, first applied for a foreign air carrier permit in 2013.

According to the unions, the Obama administrations late-December decision to grant NAI a foreign carrier permit enables NAI to “execute on its flag of convenience (FOC) scheme.” The permit allows for Norwegian to establish an Irish subsidiary in order to take advantage of Ireland’s impotent labor, tax, and social laws.

“The Obama administration has tilted the field of play in favor of a foreign competitor and put thousands of good-paying, middle-class, U.S. aviation jobs at risk. It will be up to the Trump administration to save them,” said SWAPA Governmental Affairs Committee Chair Chip Hancock.

Captain Jon Weaks, SWAPA President, stated, “President-elect Trump was elected on a pro-American worker platform and has already delivered wins for several American companies. It is our sincere desire that the president-elect will right this wrong by repealing this detrimental ruling.”

The DOT has maintained that the United States and European Union’s bilateral agreements leave the agency no basis to reject the permit.

“Regardless of our appreciation of the public policy arguments raised by opponents, we have been advised that the law and our bilateral obligations leave us no avenue to reject this application,” noted the DOT in its final order.

© 2017 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Gets Into Whole-Aircraft Brokerage With New Subsidiary

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NetJets Inc. buys and sells more airplanes than any other private aviation company in the world, and now the fractional ownership pioneer is offering these capabilities to the entire private aviation community through a new, independent subsidiary: QS Partners, a whole-aircraft brokerage and dealership.

QS Partners is dedicated to delivering customized aircraft sales and acquisition services. QS Partners has a global network of resources and expertise that enables the delivery of creative solutions to all corners of the globe.

“By recognizing a growing need from our clients regarding whole-aircraft sales and trades and leveraging NetJets’ global network of resources, QS Partners allows us to offer a valuable service that goes beyond what is traditionally offered by aircraft brokerage services,” said Doug Henneberry, EVP of Aircraft Asset Management at NetJets. “This is a service our customers have asked for, and we’ll extend the uncompromising attention to detail they have come to expect from NetJets to this new venture.”

Whole-aircraft transactions are hardly new territory for NetJets–or for QS Partners. For years the company has assisted aircraft owners looking to transition into a NetJets Share™ or Marquis Jet Card®, or fractional owners looking to supplement with whole aircraft ownership. The company’s aircraft expertise also runs deep; it maintains a fleet of more than 700 jets globally that continuously require refreshing.

“Even though we are a new company, we have the resources, the expertise, the capital strength, and the global presence of NetJets,” said Brian Hirsh, President of QS Partners. “Those four elements set QS Partners apart from almost every other broker dealer.” QS Partners is now the exclusive authorized reseller of NetJets airplanes.

A long-term strategy for QS Partners is to focus on customer-centric service. Every transition is about more than buying or selling an airplane—it’s about developing a relationship and understanding the core of the customers’ objectives and where they want to be. This allows QS Partners to create the best solution, especially with the expertise of John Odegard and Seth Zlotkin, NetJets veterans and industry experts who bring a combined 25 years of aviation sales experience to the team.

In addition to being customer-centric, QS Partners is also a data-driven company with global reach. Fueled with decades of research provided by its parent company, QS Partners has more data, more details, more knowledge of the market, and more understanding of what’s happening in all corners of the world than other companies.

“Data allows us to better guide customers and provide valuable options,” said Hirsh. “We have the resources to facilitate a seamless transaction anywhere around the globe.”

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: Supersonic Business Jets Will Boost Fractional Jet Ownership

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It’s no secret that the fractional jet ownership business has struggled in recent years, with several competitors leaving the market, and the merger of Flexjet and Flight Options. While Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets is healthy, NetJets Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Patrick Gallagher, noted on AINonline that “We’re growing our market share of a shrinking pie.”

All that may soon change with the coming of a new generation of supersonic business jets, produced by companies such as the Aerion Corporation. The planes will cruise at Mach 1.4, cutting three hours off New York City to Europe, and six hours or more off long Pacific routes.

The planes will give corporate leaders and other high-end travelers a compelling reason to consider fractional ownership.

Even cross-country travel, which draws additional concerns about sonic booms, will be faster. Aerion claims that its Boomless Cruise(sm) flight is feasible at speeds up to Mach 1.2, depending on atmospheric conditions, principally temperature and wind.

The company hopes that the U.S. will adopt International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, permitting supersonic speeds over the U.S. Supersonic flights are currently prohibited.

Aerion claims that at speeds around Mach 1.2 a “sonic boom would, essentially, dissipate before reaching the ground.”

Another fledgling supersonic business jet manufacturer, Boston-based Spike Aerospace, calls no sonic booms the “holy grail of the next generation of aircraft.” It hopes to have its 18-passenger jets in the market by the early 2020s.

Even before these jets debut, NetJets is focusing on the growth potential of its long-haul business.

NetJets is looking to expand its long-haul business by offering new pricing incentive programs developed for Challenger 350 and Global shareowners.

NetJets hopes to capture a portion of the business that is currently going on commercial airlines or ad hoc charter by providing operational savings on 3.5-plus-hour flights for Challenger 350 shareholders who have purchased a minimum of 50-plus hours (1/16th of a share).

NetJets’ cross-country program is aimed at flyers travelling cross-country or to Europe on a super-midsize airplane like the Challenger 350. Currently, the average NetJets flight time is two hours, and the goal is to increase the number of hours of flight time.

NetJets and the Supersonic Market

The new supersonic business jets will fall into an interesting category of jets that will have a decided advantage over other private jets, but will be too expensive for most people to own outright.

While the supersonic business jet market offers opportunity, it also comes at a high cost, with the price of each jet at over $100 million.

That’s the perfect opening for fractional ownership companies to plot their growth.

Currently, Flexjet is the only company to place a firm order for the jets. In 2015, they ordered twenty of Aerion’s AS2 aircraft.

The Aerion AS2 is a three-engine jet and is larger than the originally conceived Aerion supersonic business jet. Fuselage length is 160 feet and maximum takeoff weight is 115,000 pounds. Minimum projected range is 4,750 nautical miles with the intention to achieve a range of more than 5,000 nautical miles.

The aircraft will have a 30-foot cabin in a two-lounge layout plus galley and both forward and aft lavatories, plus a baggage compartment that is accessible in-flight. Cabin dimensions widen from entryway to the aft seating area where height is six feet, two inches and cabin width is seven feet, three inches.

Carrying eight to 12 passengers, the AS2 has an intercontinental-capable range of 4,750 nautical miles at supersonic speed.

While, NetJets has yet to announce any orders, it’s clear that only the strongest of the fractional ownership companies will be able to compete in this market, giving them a clear advantage over smaller charter companies, and a major capability advantage over commercial airlines.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Reaches Labor Agreement With Flight Dispatchers

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NetJets’ seemingly endless labor disputes look finally to be ending, as the flight dispatchers have now followed the pilots and flight attendants in reaching a new contract with Berkshire Hathaway’s fractional aircraft ownership company.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Airline Division and Local 284 report they have reached a tentative agreement with NetJets on a five-year contract for approximately 50 flight dispatchers at NetJets.

The agreement was reached on May 5, and is the first union agreement for the NetJets dispatchers.

According to the union, the average first year wage increase is 18.5 percent.

The contract prohibits displacement or removal from a dispatcher position, furlough or remaining on furlough as a result of implementation of new technology or changes to existing technology. In addition to average signing bonuses in excess of $11,000, the contract prohibits management from increasing out of pocket expenses related to the dispatchers’ health insurance benefits.

The new collective bargaining agreement ends at-will employment and replaces it with just cause protections, access to stewards and other union representatives on the job. It also includes protections against subcontracting or assigning work to employees who are not covered by the contract.

“This moment is the culmination of years of hard work,” said Capt. David Bourne, Director of the Teamsters Airline Division. “This group has overcome many obstacles and fought incredibly hard to attain this contract. They’ve achieved an excellent agreement which contains job protections, large wage increases and improved retirement benefits. I’m proud to be able to call them Teamsters.”

“We’re ready to represent this group,” said Paul Suffoletto, President of Local 284. “Whether it’s signing bonuses, recognition of seniority rights or job security protections, these dispatchers will now be given the status they deserve within the industry. We appreciate the efforts of everyone involved in organizing and negotiations. The work has been greatly rewarded with this agreement, which has the full support of the negotiating committee.”

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice

Teamsters Next in Queue for NetJets Labor Troubles

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Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets can’t seem to escape its labor troubles, even after finally reaching agreement with its flight attendants and pilots.

In December 2015, NetJets put its two-year battle over wages with its approximately 2,700 pilots firmly behind it when it agreed to raises that brought the pilots $575 million spread over five years.

Now, it’s the NetJets technicians and flight dispatchers that are preparing for a strike authorization vote, as Teamsters Local 284 complains of “cost-cutting demands and proposals that they say undermine the ability to perform their jobs.”

“NetJets demands the right to replace human flight dispatchers with automation and software programs,” said Paul Suffoletto, President of Local 284 in Columbus, Ohio. “Management is also telling our aviation technicians that they have to compete against lower cost mechanics if they want to perform necessary maintenance work on NetJets aircraft. These actions raise serious questions about cost-cutting at the expense of employees responsible for the safety of flights.”

Local 284 states that its members at NetJets that work in fueling, catering, dispatching, stock clerk, aircraft cleaning and maintenance control operations also could be impacted by the latest round of labor unrest.

They note that the affected workers have been in contract negotiations for more than five years.

Berkshire Hathaway acquired NetJets in 1998, and has struggled with labor troubles. In June 2015, Berkshire canned NetJets’s chairman and CEO Jordan Hansell, who was unable to resolve the pilots’ dispute. The replacement CEO, Adam Johnson, has had better luck.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Becomes Private Aviation Partner for PowerShares Series Tennis

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In January, Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets signed tennis superstar Maria Sharapova as a “brand ambassador.” Now, the leader in fractional jet ownership has signed on as the official private aviation partner of PowerShares Series Tennis for the 2016 season.

As part of the deal, NetJets will receive increased advertising throughout the series, branded features during broadcasts, and hospitality for select events.

Jon Venison, president of InsideOut Sports and Entertainment, the operator of the PowerShares Series, stated that the series is “thrilled and honored to be associated with such a prestigious company.”

The PowerShares Series is a competitive tennis circuit featuring legendary tennis icons and world-renowned champions Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, James Blake, Mark Philippoussis, and Mardy Fish. Each tournament features 4 Champions paired off in one set semi-finals and culminates with the winners meeting in a one-set championship match.

The series begins on April 8th in Chicago, the first of five events in April, before three more events in July and August, culminating with two events in each November and December.

In her role as a NetJets brand ambassador, Maria Sharapova will work with NetJets’ marketing, with a particular focus on social media. She will also provide exclusive experiences for NetJets owners throughout the partnership.

“I have been a long time owner of NetJets, since 2004, and now to become an Ambassador for this quintessential lifestyle company is very exciting,” said Sharapova.

Forbes ranks Sharapova as the highest paid female athlete for the past nine years.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Adds Wide-Cabin Jets

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NetJet flyers have more room to spread-out as NetJets adds more wide-cabin jets to its fleet with the purchase of seven Bombardier Challenger 650 business jets.

The first of the Challenger 650s was put into service in mid-December.

Bombardier Challenger 650 boasts class-leading width, and has a maximum range of 4,000 NM, with a maximum altitude of 4,000 feet.

The Challenger 650 has a cabin width centerline of 7 feet 2 inches, a cabin width floorline of 5 feet 1 inch, and a cabin height of 6 feet 1 inch.

Bombardier also claims that the jet has the lowest-in-class direct operating costs.

© 2016 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: A Christmas Wish List for Under Warren Buffett’s Tree

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Here’s a Christmas wish list for presents under Warren Buffett’s tree. The items are big, so we’ll fit them under Charlie Munger’s tree as well.

1. Precision Castparts: There’s nothing like getting the present you bought for yourself. The pending acquisition the aerospace manufacturer looks like the gift that will keep on giving.  Demand for new airplanes will double over the next 15 years, as aging fleets are retired and millions more people start to fly regularly in India and China.

2. Duracell: Because everyone likes to get cash for Christmas! With the Duracell acquisition set to close in February 2016, Berkshire will gain not only the leading alkaline battery manufacturer, but will also get a company recapitalized by P&G with $1.7 billion in cash, and will get huge tax savings as it trades in its appreciated P&G stock for the battery maker.

3. More German Companies: Warren Buffett’s admiration for the German economy was on full display at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in May 2015. This past February, Berkshire Hathaway struck a deal to acquire Devlet Louis Motorradvertriebs, a mail-order and retail chain selling motorbike clothing and accessories. The move, according to Buffett, was just the first small acquisition in a country with a strong economy and work ethic. And, with a rising dollar and a shaky euro, will more German companies fit under Berkshire’s tree?

4. Lots of Natural Gas: As the world dumps coal and moves to cheaper and cleaner forms of energy, Berkshire’s on the verge of striking it rich in Australia’s gas fields. Natural gas prices may be cratering now, but it never hurts to have a majority share of four trillion cubic feet of gas-in-place (yes, trillion) in Australia’s Whicher Range and Wonnerup gas fields. A new test well hopefully will bring good news in the new year.

5. More Auto Dealers: When Berkshire Hathaway jumped into the auto retailing business in March 2015, with its acquisition of the Van Tuyl Group, it added a whole new line of business to the mega-conglomerate. The Van Tuyl Group was the largest privately owned auto dealership group in the U.S., and Buffett promised that this was just the start of building a major auto-retailing empire. So, will Herb Chambers Companies, a privately-held, Boston-based dealership group with 55 total dealerships, be the perfect fit for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive? Its owner looks ready to sell. Time to wrap this one up and put a bow on it.

6. Happy Pilots at NetJets: Forget your crazy uncle, there’s nothing like having a happy family at Christmas. This holiday, NetJets’ pilots and its flight attendants will be celebrating their new contracts that bring substantial raises. Hopefully, they’ll use it to buy some of Berkshire’s fine products. How about some jewelry from Borsheims? It’s been a good year. Go for it!

7. More Solar & Wind! Berkshire’s quickly becoming the leading energy producer and distributor of solar and wind energy. This year saw major wind farm projects, including a new wind farm site in Adams County, Iowa, which will produce 162 megawatts of additional wind generation capacity in Iowa. Berkshire’s aggressive expansion of it solar power farms saw its Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, California, become one of the largest photovoltaic solar farms in the world. And, there’s plenty of room under the tree for more such projects, which not only bring cheap energy, but also lower environmental costs as they are emissions free. With the cost of solar energy dropping fast, Berkshire’s been signing amazing deals that are a Christmas present now and for decades to come. In Nevada, it has contracted to buy electricity from First Solar’s soon to be built Playa Solar 2 at the astoundingly low rate of only 3.87 cents a kilowatt-hour, and the deal is a fixed rate contract for twenty years.

8. More Deals with 3G Capital: Because everyone likes surprises. 3G’s aggressive acquisition strategy has been the perfect partner for Berkshire’s cash. 3G brings not only the aggressive cost-cutting (aggressive is an understatement) that is bringing legacy companies such as Kraft-Heinz into the 21st century, but also gives excellent financing and equity opportunities. 3G’s merger of Burger King with Tim Hortons brought Berkshire fat interest payments and made Berkshire a minority owner of the newly formed Restaurant Brands International. Surely, there are more deals to be done.

Hard to fit this all under the Christmas tree? Berkshire’s a big company. There’s room for all this and more.

Merry Christmas everybody!

–David Mazor

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Pilots Get Their Long-Awaited Raises

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It’s going to be a merry Christmas for NetJets’ pilots!

The approximately 2,700 pilots that fly for Berkshire Hathaway’s fractional jet ownership company have agreed to raises that will bring them $575 million spread over five years.

The new deal maintains company-funded medical insurance, offers enhanced scheduling options, expands scope protections and seniority rights, pays out a signing bonus and increases wages an average of 28 percent.

According to the certified election results, 96 percent of the pilot group participated in the referendum with 75.43 percent casting a vote in favor of ratification.

The pilots, who are all members of the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), will split a one-time bonus of $70 million.

The raises mean that a captain with ten-years-experience will earn $143,105. The salary represents a 20-percent increase over previous salary levels.

NetJets is the world-leader fractional jet ownership, with 60-percent of the market, but the move is unlikely to leave it at a competitive disadvantage with its smaller competitors.

In mid-December, Flexjet and Flight Options pilots voted in favor of joining NJASAP, and the salaries negotiated with NetJets will surely be the basis for NJASAP’s negotiations with other fractional jet companies.

The new NetJets pilots’ agreement came after a contentious labor dispute that led to NetJets’ pilots picketing Berkshire’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, and in September, the pilots began picketing at a number of airports.

Change in Leadership Led to Breakthrough

On June 1, 2015, Berkshire Hathaway, the owner of NetJets, dismissed NetJets CEO and chairman Jordan Hansell, replacing him with Adam Johnson, who had spent 22 years at NetJets. The change led to a new contract with its flight attendants in October, and then an agreement with the pilots in November.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased NetJets, the leader in fractional jet ownership, in 1998 for $725 million.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

NetJets Paying Cancellation Fees as Profits Grounded

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No one likes cancellation fees when they fly, and for Berkshire Hathaway’s NetJets Inc. it’s when they don’t fly, or more specifically when they don’t buy that they incur fees.

NetJets is ponying up cancellation fees as it cuts orders for aircraft purchases and grapples with slumping earnings even as revenues grow.

Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets has run into turbulence this past quarter with its earnings down a whopping 37-percent. Earnings for the first nine months of the year were down a less dramatic but still meaningful 7-percent.

“In 2015, NetJets incurred increased non-fuel flight operation costs and increased general and administrative expenses, including fees to cancel certain aircraft purchases,” Berkshire Hathaway said in its most recent quarterly financial report.

Total revenues were up 5-percent but the company reported that the revenue growth was “partially offset by lower flight operations revenues, which were primarily due to lower fuel cost recoveries.”

Back in 2012, NetJets announced the largest private jet purchase in history, with a total of 425 aircraft scheduled to be added to its worldwide fleet. At the time, it valued the total purchase from Bombardier and Cessna at $9.6 billion.

Now, it looks like some of those orders will go unfilled.

Berkshire Hathaway purchased NetJets, the leader in fractional jet ownership, in 1998 for $725 million.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.