The business jet industry, as we all know, has been hit hard by a teetering economy and public hostility against anything perceived as wretched corporate excess.
Sales are down. Orders are being withdrawn. Corporate flight departments are being closed or told to keep a low profile. Layoffs are mounting.
That is why the industry is not laughing at an Internet advertisement from scrappy JetBlue Airways . The purported aim of the ad (it is at http://www.welcomebigwigs.com/) is to introduce the comforts of JetBlue to executives who suddenly find themselves unable to use a private jet. Along the way, it pokes fun at chief executives not used to doing anything for themselves and notes that the airline flies to Aruba, Las Vegas, Nantucket and other places that might interest the executives.
Last week, the National Business Aviation Association sent a letter to JetBlue, saying that the ad “maligns business aviation in an attempt to boost ticket sales.” Companies that use private aircraft also spend about $11 billion on commercial fares each year, the association said. And it noted that flying JetBlue “doesn’t make sense for businesses located in any of the thousands of towns and communities your airline doesn’t serve.”
The ad, the letter said, was “nothing more than an attention-grabbing stunt to fill airline seats.”
The ad has certainly gotten attention. Every day, I get another e-mail link to it. The ad is “meant to be viral” on the Internet, said a JetBlue spokesman, Bryan Baldwin. “We are not anticorporate jet or anti-C.E.O. We’re recognizing that the economy is hitting people hard, and we want to show everyone that there are still travel options out there that are good for business and don’t have to be at the expense of comfort.”
And the business industry’s pain only deepened on Monday, when ABC News reported that JPMorgan Chase , which received $25 billion in federal bailout money, was buying two luxury Gulfstream G650 jets for about $60 million each, and planned an $18 million “lavish renovation” of its corporate jet hangar.