Millennials on board

5 ways that Gen Y is shaping business aviation

Millennials, the generation born roughly between the years 1980 and 2000, have received plenty of press. You probably know that they’re tech savvy, passionate about social causes, and driven by recognition, flexibility, and transparency (hello, social media!).1, 2 Also known as “Gen Y,” they are transforming the workplace, setting new standards for leadership, championing diversity and inclusion, and tackling the opportunities of automation.3 But what do these trends mean for more niche industries, like private aviation? Can millennials impact such a traditionally up-market business model?

Short answer: yes. As millennials bring their passion for technology to work and play, successful business aviation organizations must keep pace. Let’s look at how millennial preferences are driving five of the top trends in aviation today.

1. The shift from product to service

Forbes recently quoted Joe Moeggenberg, CEO and Founder of ARGUS, saying that “Business aviation is no longer based on ownership. It is about creating unique service offerings."4 Embraer Executive Jets president and CEO Michael Amalfitano echoed these statements at the 2017 Corporate Jet Investor conference, emphasizing that millennials “want more unique choices, more customization, more personalization, and an overall higher level of service,” leading to a new way of doing business: “business aviation as a service.”5

This shift from product to service mirrors a similar change in other industries, and one largely driven by millennials’ indifference to ownership. They rideshare everywhere instead of owning a car, stream music and movies instead of purchasing media, choose cloud-hosted services at work instead of traditional on-premise software. It’s no surprise that they prefer to fly in a similar way, either chartering flights or participating in alternate purchasing models like fractional ownership.

As a result, fractional and charter programs must entice and attract new customers with superior service offerings to their competitors. Perhaps even more importantly, they must retain those customers with exceptional ongoing service. Inflight Wi-Fi can play a key role in these efforts, giving members of these programs access to connectivity for work and leisure that keeps them coming back.


2. The rise of flight sharing

Like Uber for your airplane, flight sharing enables private pilots to share costs with strangers – a decidedly millennial proposition. The model is growing in popularity in Europe, where the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) allows pilots to share costs with up to five passengers, with whom they connect via platforms like Wingly. While European millennials have proven the success of these apps and the service behind them, getting approval in America has been more challenging. For now, the FAA maintains that “using apps or Internet posts to offer flight-sharing is equivalent to ‘common carriage’ and is off-limits to private pilots,” but Congress continues to debate the issue.6

Pilots and aircraft owners who participate in flight sharing, now or in the future, face similar pressures and opportunities as Uber drivers. Potential passengers, with their choice of airplanes, will likely choose those that best fit their needs and their wants. As such, inflight connectivity can be a significant boon here, too. Pilots can advertise their ability to fly with greater precision via connected apps, create an onboard working environment complete with Wi-Fi, and keep passengers happy with streaming movies and entertainment.


3. The growth of empty leg chartering

Empty leg chartering, according to some travel experts, has “changed the private jet game... [it] helps with fuel costs and puts private jet flying within reach to people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford this luxury and convenience.”7

Empty leg flights are the return journeys of one-way trips which charter organizations and other aviation providers offer at a discounted price, often via a mobile app that allows users to see when and where the empty legs are available. Empty leg chartering isn’t for everyone – flights usually come up for grabs at short notice, and can be moved or cancelled if the original one-way flight plans change – but have become popular with passengers who value spontaneity and wallet-friendliness over the traditional private jet experience. In other words, this is a business model tailor-made for millennials: driven by value, accessed via technology.


4. The popularity of jet cards

Like empty leg chartering, jet cards give flexibility-loving and budget-minded millennials a way to fly privately without the costs of outright or even fractional ownership. Similar to Zipcar, your membership fee provides you with access to a set number of hours on private planes for a flat fee.8 Like flight sharing, providers lean heavily on technology – particularly apps – to run the program and differentiate their services, especially toward the younger market. And again, part of that differentiation is offering the services, like inflight Wi-Fi, that your clients demand. Customers don’t buy jet cards on price alone; the complete experience helps them choose from over 250 providers.9


5. The importance of transparency and experience

Each of these trends is predicated on the qualities perhaps most important to the millennial generation: transparency and experience. Gen Y expects to be able to easily see and understand pricing options; to be able to change their plans if and when necessary; and for every service they consume to meet their (high) expectations at every level of the experience, from booking a flight quickly and easily on an app to enjoying the capabilities that they’ve come to expect, like inflight connectivity. For a generation raised on the internet, Wi-Fi on an airplane is not an exception – it’s the rule.

These expectations, more than the different service offerings themselves, will drive the changes that millennials are bringing to business aviation. The flavors of flight options may evolve, but the new adult generation’s reliance on and assumption of technology and connectivity will remain the same. From private pilots considering flight sharing to charter services, fractional programs to corporate jets, meeting millennial demands should be a top priority – and inflight Wi-Fi, of course, is critical to achieving that goal.

To learn more about how our inflight connectivity solutions can help you accommodate these changing passenger expectations, connect with a Gogo inflight connectivity consultant today.


1. Patel, Deep. 2018. “7 Surprising Traits That Make Millenials Excellent Employees." Entrepreneur, January 17, 2018.
2. Abbot, Lydia. 2013. "8 Millenials' Traits You Should Know About Before You Hire Them.", December 4, 2013.
3. Alton, Larry. 2017. "5 Ways Millenials Will Transform The Workplace In 2018." Forbes, December 28, 2017.
4. Gollan, Doug. 2018. "The Hottest Private Aviation Trends, From New Aircraft to New Ways to Access Private Jets." Forbes, February 14, 2018.
5. Trautvetter, Chad. 2017. "Millenials Changing the Face of Business Aviation." AINonline, December 5, 2017.
6. Grady, Mary. 2018. "Flight-Sharing Back in Play." AVweb, April, 2018.
7.  Vora, Shivani. 2018. "Taking a Private Jet Could Be More Affordable Than You Think." The New York Times, January 24, 2018.
8. Roberts, Daniel. 2015. "The Rise of the Jet Card." Fortune, March 29, 2015.
9. Gollan, Doug. 2018. "What's the Best Jet Card? Why Price Is Only One Consideration." Forbes, March 5, 2018.

Related content