Karen Workman: The corporate jet is not evil. It's practical.

  • Article by: KAREN WORKMAN
  • November 29, 2009 - 11:16 AM

Oh, for crying out loud. Why would the average American drive a gas-guzzling automobile when so many other people in the world are walking, riding their animals or peddling bicycles?

Here's why: Because most Americans know that cars are faster and that you get more done in a day by driving.

Think about it: You go to work (the average commute is 16 miles), stop for groceries on the way home, tote kids around and maybe visit a friend in the evening. How much of your day would be spent on the trail if you didn't drive? If you are earning enough money to afford a car, chances are you have one.

Businesses aren't much different; they just operate on a larger scale. The field of a company can span thousands of miles and many countries. If driving uses up a whole day, those who value time will fly if they can.

That brings me to the sticky subject of company-owned airplanes, back in the news thanks to controversy over Xcel Energy's use of leased Learjets for executive travel.

Some people mistakenly believe that private business aircraft are owned by companies with extreme profits and that the planes are used only to indulge pampered executives. Good grief. That's like saying minivans are owned only by the wealthiest families to indulge pampered children. With a minivan (airplane), a family (company team) can easily get to the places that provide income (opportunities), services (partners, customers) and products (suppliers) that are needed for health and development (to maintain and to grow). The big difference in the corporate world is distance.

I can see my gentle readers sputtering, "But, but, what about executives' taking an airline flight like the rest of us?!" The answer is: They do. Sometimes flying the airlines makes sense. It is a matter of the benefit outweighing the cost. A company's leaders may consider whether to fly a private plane or book a flight with an airline much like you decide whether to drive your personal vehicle or take mass transit.

An airliner is, after all, just a big bus with wings. Both a bus and an airline have fixed destinations and fixed schedules. When the schedule doesn't work or the airline doesn't go to the town where the CEO needs to go to, a private plane makes perfect sense. It's all about efficiency. There is no wasted time when a company uses its own airplane. And get this: A company plane is like a minivan. There is no extra cost to bring along a team of coworkers, as there would be on an airline.

Here's a story. Let's say you have an opportunity for a high-paying dream job, say, pizza tasting for $98,000 a year. The outgoing chief taster wants a personal interview with you this afternoon. How would you get to his office 30 miles away? Forget about walking; that's crazy talk. If you have a car in the driveway, chances are you'll take it. Would you think about taking the bus? Maybe, if the bus could drop you off near your meeting, on time.

Let's inject steroids to the story. You are the president of a successful company that spans the United States. You have the opportunity to meet the president of a company that is interested in a huge, mutually beneficial project. She is 3,000 miles away and can only meet with you tomorrow morning. If you have a company plane, chances are you'll take it. Would you think about taking an airline flight? Maybe, if it flies to her city and if you can get there on time.

Business-owned aircraft are about flexibility and productivity, just like personal ownership of a car. A company is a group of people united to do business -- people trying to make a living and reach for opportunities. The difference between a family and a company is that when companies make money, they are able to provide jobs for you and me. I, for one, like to see companies making money. I say let them do it in whatever legal way works for them. Let them fly.

Karen Workman is a freelance writer in Northfield.

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