Private jet operator Flexjet LLC is set to open a fully renovated private terminal this fall at Westchester County Airport. The new $3 million facility will include a 4,000-square-foot passenger lounge and 30,000 square feet of hangar space.
“The experience really starts when you get to the airport,” Matt Doyle, senior vice president of sales, said during the National Business Aviation Association’s Regional Forum at the airport. “Not necessarily when you get on the plane.”
Cleveland-based Flexjet’s fractional ownership model allows travelers to pay for a certain amount of annual flight time on a private jet, including the latest addition to its fleet, the Embraer Legacy 450, which was on display at the Sept. 15 event.
While flight time is purchased in 50-hour increments, the aircraft are owned, operated and maintained by Flexjet. Doyle said that about 60 percent of the company’s flights are for business purposes, while the remainder are for leisure.
Branded a Flexjet-Exclusive Private Terminal, the soon-to-open facility at the airport will offer conference rooms, private workspaces and onsite staff.
“Whether you’re departing or landing, you have your own private space,” Doyle said. “The whole focus is to really close that gap from fractional ownership to whole ownership and to make the entire experience, not just the time on the airplane, more like you’d experience if you owned it.”
About 17 percent of Flexjet’s business is out of the New York area, Doyle said, and Westchester County Airport is one of Flexjet’s five busiest for arrivals and departures among their 2,100 fractional owners.
“It’s a logical location to have a facility for our owners to go through,” he said.
It will be the second of several planned terminals, including one already operating in Naples, Florida, and another under development in Palm Beach, Fla.
“They’re really our high-travel areas,” Doyle said. “They’re great spots for our owners, but it’s really great for our maintenance facilities as well. We have aircraft going through there all the time.”
Flexjet made the decision to move its maintenance operations from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to Westchester’s Hangar F in February of 2015. Portions of the company’s moving costs were defrayed through $5.1 million in bond financing and tax incentives from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency.
Flexjet’s location in Hangar F, formerly the home of International Paper’s flight department before it moved its corporate headquarters to Memphis, will become the East Coast maintenance facility for its fleet that includes Bombardier, Learjet, Embraer and Gulfstream jets. Depending on the size of the aircraft passing through, the newly renovated hangar will have the capacity to house 10 to 15 planes.
The new facility is expected to bring 28 jobs to Westchester, Doyle said, and that number could reach 40 employees by the end of the year. Positions will range from aircraft mechanics, parts personnel, pilots and staff for the passenger’s lounge.
State Assemblyman David Buchwald said during the regional forum that the aviation industry’s success in Westchester is vital to the county’s overall economy.
“We’ve made sure that there are significant opportunities for (the airline) industry to expand here in New York and to in turn help many other companies that rely on their services,” he said, citing a 2015 law that exempts general aviation fuel and aircraft from state and local sales and use taxes.
According to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s enhanced traffic management system count database, there were 57,384 domestic business arrivals and departures at Westchester County Airport from April 2015 to March 2016, making it the second-busiest airport for corporate activity behind Teterboro, which logged 137,285 during that period.
“We’re very, very honored that we have big corporations and small businesses who utilize this airport for their business travel,” Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino said during the conference. “It is a perfect example when the restaurants are full and when the hotel rooms are full because everyone is here (at this forum). It means this is an important industry to the economy of this county.”