David Beach, former Senior Vice President of Contracts at NetJets and current VP of Administration at Jet Advisors, is beginning a series of blog posts on what you need to know before you agree to a fractional share or lease on any airplane.
Fractional Programs: Know the Terms & Conditions (Part 1)
While at first glance, they appear to be very similar in structure and offerings, not all fractional programs are the same - and I am not referring to just aircraft types offered. The terms and conditions governing the programs vary for each provider as well as the agreements used. Consequently, the terms and conditions as well as the documents should be reviewed and understood before you sign on the dotted line.
The document that accomplishes this is either a fractional interest purchase agreement or lease agreement. In either of these agreements, there are things to be aware of, and in some cases, they can be negotiated away or made more favorable to you.One thing, though, is common to all programs. To become a member or owner (as the fractional programs refer to customers), you must acquire ownership of an interest (also referred to as a share) in an aircraft. This is accomplished in one of two ways: either an outright purchase (yes, you buy a “piece” of the aircraft) or through a lease. In the purchase scenario, you receive a bill of sale for the share and are registered as a partial owner of the aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Does the provider make reasonable efforts to position the aircraft in a "tax-friendly” location at time of delivery?
What is the guaranteed term of ownership or leasehold? Most programs have a 5-year initial term (60 months), and some give you the option to terminate early after a preset minimum term of ownership or leasehold. If you terminate early, are there penalties or fees? Most ownership structures have a brokerage fee due at termination based on your share’s fair market value at the time of termination regardless of whether you go full term or terminate early.
Since the brokerage fee is based on your share’s fair market value, how is that value determined? Do you have the option to dispute it, or is it take-it-or-leave-it? Is the repurchase at termination guaranteed in a certain time frame, or does provider have to find a new buyer before they buy back the share?
What are your rights if the provider defaults or ceases to do business? For the large providers this is unlikely, but if it did happen, the market would be flooded with aircraft, values would plummet, and you would be holding the bag along with the other owners with shares on the same aircraft.
Another provision to be aware of is assignability. Can you freely assign to an affiliate or to a third party that is unrelated to you or your company? If the share can be assigned, are there fees required for documentation, filings, movement of the aircraft, etc.?
What are your obligations for registering the share with the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment (International Registry) when you purchase it and when you sell it back? While not a major expense, signing up to the International Registry and filing or consenting to the purchase and sale back will cost at least $1,000.