Saturday, May 2, 2009 2:58 AM
The steps, including early retirements, reduced work hours and leaves of absence, will begin later this month at the company, which maintains its operational headquarters in Columbus.
NetJets, controlled by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, pioneered the concept of "fractional" aircraft ownership, which works much like a time share. NetJets is by far the biggest fractional operator in the U.S.
Last year, the company announced that it would keep its operations in Columbus and invest $200 million in a new campus at Port Columbus.
The NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots, a union formed last year after the pilots broke from the Teamsters, represents the company's 3,000 pilots, who live across the country. In a letter to members, union leaders called the "voluntary options and associated incentives … unparalleled in the aviation industry and reflective of a genuine labor-management partnership." They encouraged members to "identify at least one option of which (to) take advantage."
NetJets executives were unavailable for comment yesterday as they prepared for today's planned Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha, Neb., according to spokeswoman Maryann Aarseth.
The private-jet industry has been in a downward spiral for months. Declines in fractional-jet flying since December have ranged from 28 percent to 50 percent per month from a year earlier, according to Cincinnati-based Aviation Research Group/U.S.
NetJets has been an exception among companies in not laying off pilots. Smaller fractional operator Flight Options, based in Cleveland, has had several rounds of layoffs since November.
In its annual report in March, Berkshire said NetJets "experienced a significant reduction in revenue as general economic conditions worsened" in the fourth quarter of 2008. It also wrote down the value of its fleet by $54 million as jet values plummeted.
Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, said he expects business to worsen for the private-aviation industry before it gets better.
"We have a recession … but more dangerously, it's politically incorrect to have anything to do with private jets, thanks to this administration," Boyd said. "Plan on this being the beginning of a painful cycle."Related Links
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