From the September 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Ask any entrepreneur and you'll get the same response--time is precious. Pose the question to frequent business travelers who log 100 or more in-flight hours a year, and they'll readily acknowledge that valuable hours are lost in transit on commercial flights due to delayed connections or inconvenient stops at an airline's hub. Wouldn't it be nice to have your own private jet?

Of course it would be a time-saving luxury. But purchasing a private aircraft is not a viable option for most entrepreneurs--even a low-end, seven-seat Cessna Citation S/II carries a sky-high price of $2.5 million (not to mention the additional monthly maintenance costs). And chartering a plane overrides any cost savings for those making many short trips over several days because you pay by the day, not by the hour.

Today, a more convenient, and surprisingly cost-effective, alternative is steadily gaining momentum with small-business owners and corporate executives nationwide. Known as fractional jet ownership, the concept is comparable to a vacation resort time share, minus the limitations: Individuals who fly between 50 and 400 hours annually buy a slice of a business jet and have the aircraft (or an identical one) available on an on-call basis, any time, anywhere. The larger your share, the more hours you have at your disposal. Under a typical plan, the use of a Cessna Citation V Ultra would cost a company $11,800 for 100 hours, plus $3,600 a month for incidentals such as fuel, insurance, pilot's salary and hangar space. There's also an annual $389,000 management fee. By no means is fractional ownership cheap, but it brings the once unattainable within reach.

"We run an on-demand system," explains Richard Santulli, CEO of Executive Jet Inc., a business aviation service company in Montvale, New Jersey. "[Owners] can call with as little as four hours' notice for an airplane at any one of the 5,000 general aviation airports in the country." These airports extend far beyond the reach of commerical airlines, which service only 500.

Santulli, a former mathematician, pioneered the concept in 1985 when he was looking into purchasing a private jet. "I realized it made no economic sense for me to spend $3 million for a jet when I'd use it only about 150 hours a year," he says. Instead, he created a way for a group of individuals to share the cost of a jet yet still retain guaranteed availability of the aircraft. In 1986, he introduced the program with a core fleet of eight planes; more than a decade later, his company has 115, and service has extended into Canada and Europe.

The trend has even taken off with American Airlines. Two years ago, the industry giant launched an affiliate company called Bombardier Business JetSolutions Inc., which offers a similar fractional jet ownership program. By 1998, the company expects to have more than 40 aircraft in its fleet.

Weather Wise

Although temperatures are cooling here at home, the weather in other parts of the world varies drastically. So if you've scheduled an upcoming trip to Hong Kong, Paris or Sydney, Australia, consider picking up a copy of Pleasant Weather Ratings (Consumer Travel Publications) before you pack your bags.

The book, which offers year-round weather profiles for more than 600 cities worldwide, can help even the most infrequent business traveler decide whether to bring along that raincoat. It also gives you the knowledge to plan your trips during the times of the year that best suit your weather preferences. Key criteria noted includes rainy seasons, average temperatures and humidity.

Author Thomas Whitmore, a weather researcher for more than 10 years, also provides a ranking of international cities with "pleasant" climates. The top three? Las Palmas, Spain; San Diego; and Casablanca, Morocco. The least pleasant: Reykjavik, Iceland, and Nome, Alaska.

You can order the quick-reference guide for $10.95 plus $2.50 shipping and handling by calling (617) 862-7495.

Bonus Points

By Heather Page

While recapturing employees' frequent-flier miles can be a boon for employers, most companies still let personnel keep their hard-earned mileage. According to a recent survey by research firm Runzheimer International in Rochester, Wisconsin, nearly four out of five companies, or 82 percent, don't attempt to recover frequent-flier points from their employees. Ten percent, however, view the points as company property; the remaining 8 percent make arrangements to split the points between company and employee. The findings suggest that those with the most successful recapturing programs started either when frequent-flier programs were introduced or when the company was very small.

Just Like Home

By H.P.

Ever considered renting your own pad when out on the road? Short-term apartment rentals typically boast roomy quarters, fully equipped kitchens and an almost-like-home feeling. Plus, these digs can be lighter on your pocketbook than corporate lodgings. A recent study conducted by Business Travel News magazine found that short-term apartment rentals can save business travelers up to 49 percent on average corporate per diems.

The study, commissioned by New York City-based Barclay International Group, which rents apartments in many major European cities, found substantial savings when comparing its short-term rental costs to hotel prices. In London, for instance, the average daily rate was $201 for short-term rentals vs. $352 for corporate-rate accommodations--43 percent less. When comparing meals, average meal costs per day in London ate up $108 vs. $25.65 for short-term apartment dwellers who ate in.

True, some business travelers don't have enough time to prepare meals. But the study found that just using the kitchen for one meal could add up to significant savings. Also scoring big points: Apartments often include laundry facilities.

Road Notes

By Catharine Kuchar

  • If you're looking for more legroom in your business-class seat, look no further than Delta's 767s, L-1011s and MD-11s that fly the North Atlantic. The new configuration will nearly double the legroom to 20 inches (from 10 inches) and almost double the recline distance to nearly 12 inches (from 7 inches).
  • Talk about a conference call. Hilton Hotels, working with TeleSuite, has created a group videoconferencing system showing life-sized images of the people you are meeting with on a 92-inch screen. A 50-minute session starts at $199 and is available at five Hilton locations across the country.
  • If you're flying United, be sure to arrive at the gate at least 20 minutes prior to the flight's departure or you could lose your seat assignment. United has started releasing and reassigning seats not claimed before the 20-minute deadline. The new, stricter rule was started to speed up the boarding process and expedite the processing of upgrades.
  • Taking life a bit easier for the business traveler, ITT Sheraton provides Sheraton Club International members with a program called "9 to 5," which allows travelers to check in as early as 9 a.m. and check out as late as 5 p.m. at more than 72 participating hotels in the United States and Canada.
  • Traveling into Manhattan from La Guardia? To avoid traffic, you may want to try the Water Shuttle. The fare is $15 one way--cheaper than a taxi--and the time it could save you is worth it. You can catch the shuttle at Delta's Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia.
  • Swissair North Atlantic services has joined other major airlines in operating nonsmoking trans-Atlantic flights. Swissair, along with its European partners, Austrian and Sabena, made the switch to meet the increasing desire of passengers for a smoke-free environment.
  • Delta Air Lines recently added Air France to its SkyMiles program.
  • According to a recent J.D. Power and Associates survey, Hertz is at the top of the rental car industry in customer satisfaction.
  • At Doubletree's new Club hotels in Chicago; Miami; Philadelphia; San Antonio; Jacksonville, Florida; and Louisville, Kentucky, you won't have to leave the hotel to enjoy pastries from Au Bon Pain or wait for documents from CopyMax. The hotel now provides guests with these and other services to make business travelers' lives easier.

Driver's Seat

How much does it cost to rent a car? Here are the average prices for renting a midsized car in 10 popular business travel destinations:

City Cost Per Day

New York City $77.47

San Francisco $56.49

Boston $55.24

Philadelphia $54.21

Chicago $50.98

Washington, DC $48.24

Los Angeles $47.48

Las Vegas $43.96

Miami $42.49

Denver $41.99

Contact Sources

Bombardier Business JetSolutions Inc., 8001 Lemmon Ave., Dallas, TX 75209, (214) 956-1703

Delta Air Lines, (800) 547-3779

Doubletree, (800) 444-CLUB, http://www.clubhotels.com

Executive Jet Inc., 85 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Montvale, NJ 07645, (201) 573-8889

Hilton Hotels/Telesuite, (800) 995-9400, http://www.hilton.com

ITT Sheraton Corp., (800) 325-3535

Swissair, 41 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747, (800) 221-4750

United Airlines, (800) 241-6522.