As part of the deal for a government bailout of its failed business in 2009, GM agreed to get rid of its jets. The stipulation was a result of the public “outing” of three automaker CEO’s for having flown to Washington, D.C. for hearings in their business jets. The trio of car bosses was excoriated for the decision, which was trumpeted as a symbol of corporate excess, which it was not.
Now, three years later, with the initial bailout period ended with GM having bought back 200 million shares of stock from Uncle Sam, the company is reportedly free again to fly its own friendly skies instead of airlining it.
But will it happen?
The mainstream media has consistently referred to these aircraft as “private” jets, and we’ve seen the term “luxury” jets thrown around to describe them, too. The way they are seldom described is as “business” jets, despite that being their purpose. In fairness, they are often described as “corporate” jets, which is relatively spin free. We like a little pro-business spin applied. They are, after all, good for business.
While the issue should come down to what a jet does for a business, it seldom does. That’s sad, because the math is easy. Bizjets make money for the bizzes that use them (in addition to bestowing additional competitive advantages). They cost money, sure, but if there’s a need, owning and managing a jet or two or three is a much better deal than paying charter rates for the same amount of flight time. And that’s not getting into the issue of availability.
Want to go somewhere with the airlines? Anything but a hub-to-hub coach flight, you’d better have a few days to spare. Want to go by charter? Depending on where and when you need to go, it’ll be more comfortable than Delta, but don’t expect to hop right on an airplane. Want to fly with Flexjet or NetJets or some other fractional provider? It’s a great deal. They’ll pick you up at your airport in a few to several hours and take you where you want to go.
But if you’re flying your own airplane, well, you’d be reading this while on departure, not waiting for tomorrow morning’s flight.
I get that the calculus is complicated, that this is a political decision more than a business one, but I can’t help but wish that GM would make the smart more, the right move, and announce to the world that business jets make business sense with the purchase of a small fleet of light to large jets.
Do I think this is going to happen? Unfortunately, no. The company will probably instead spend more money than they have to or tie up high-powered talent on the airlines for fear that their sensible use of bizjets would be exploited for political gain, just as it was in 2009.
This, sadly, is the state of affairs today, and it has cost our industry dearly, a fact that matters not at all to those who would exploit the situation for even the slightest political advantage. But these, unfortunately, are the times in which we live.