You reviewed the various fractional programs and selected the one that was the best for your travel needs. For years you enjoyed the flight services provided and everything was working as advertised and as you expected – then the service became erratic and a little later nonexistent. What do you do? More importantly, what can you do?
If you leased the fractional aircraft share and have consistently flown your allotted hours, you may be in good shape. If your lease was direct with the provider and not with a third party financial institution, your biggest problem might be simply finding another provider for your air transportation needs. However, if you purchased the fractional share, you’re in a completely different position. Not only will you need to find alternative travel arrangements, but what do you do about your owned interest in the aircraft, your asset?
Most (but not all) fractional programs have a guaranteed buy-back provision in the event of default by the provider. Even if your fractional program agreements have the guaranteed buy-back provision and the service is discontinued, the cause is mostly likely due to the financial condition of the provider.
If your fractionally owned aircraft is fully sold into the fractional share program (i.e. wholly owned by you and other participants in the program and no fractional share is held by the provider), you can try to contact the other owners of the aircraft (FAA records are public information) and reach an agreement amongst yourselves on what to do with the aircraft. Options may include finding a third party manager for the aircraft with the owners sharing the costs of operation and use of the aircraft based on how much they own – I do not think this is feasible unless the aircraft is the rare fractional program aircraft with just a few owners – or selling it on the open market. However, any of the options may be difficult to pursue due to the structure of the program agreement you signed and the legal requirements if the provider has declared bankruptcy.
Selling the aircraft on the open market is probably the best option, but it will have its own set of issues to overcome. Is the aircraft airworthy? The fractional provider is required to keep the aircraft airworthy, but if the provider is in a financial bind, has airworthiness actually been maintained? What about the engines that go with your specific aircraft? Some providers state in the program agreements that the aircraft will have a specific type of engine installed while others specify the exact serial number of the engines. If serial numbers are specified, where are the engines and how do you get them reinstalled on your aircraft? Is your aircraft lien free? And - probably the most important item - where are the aircraft log books and are they complete and up-to-date?
Even if your aircraft is airworthy, the appropriate engines are installed, there are no liens, and the log books are complete, what about its fair market value? Even a small fractional provider going under can have a huge impact on aircraft values when that provider’s fleet is placed on the market. For instance, if 25 used aircraft of a specific type are currently for sale, with only 3 sales in the last 6 months, an insolvent provider with a fleet of 50 aircraft of that type would flood the market. The addition of 50 extra aircraft on the used market would add approximately 8 years of available used inventory, swiftly crushing that aircraft type’s market value.
If you find yourself in a situation where your fractional provider fails to deliver the service you signed on for and want help with the fallout, please feel free to call us at 617.600.6868 and we'll help you navigate your options and find a solution to your private jet needs.