The CEO of North American private aviation consultancy Private Jet Services discusses how the pandemic reshaped the industry, the logistics of managing large events and what the future holds for the company.
What was your career path to your current role?
I started my first business, a student travel tour operator in my dorm room at Middlebury College. At that time the only cost-effective way to send 30,000 students on Spring Break was to charter a fleet of Boeing 747s. That’s when I taught myself how to charter airplanes.
Four years later, I left college without a diploma but with a successful business platform that had grown organically and through acquisitions to become the largest student travel platform. Although I sold the business in 1999 I was smitten with aviation from then on.
Looking for my next great idea, I approached an old friend who ran the best business in rock and roll freight forwarding. His company moved every rock star’s staging and lighting equipment, provided generators at every Super Bowl and was always behind whatever live performance grabbed the world’s attention.
Most importantly, because of the “do or die” nature of its customers’ jobs, his business was supremely profitable, and his clients swore by the service. I imagined starting a consultancy that could offer the same world-class service to the rock stars themselves, in addition to sports teams and presidential candidate. That’s what led me to found Private Jet Services. It hasn’t always been easy, but I cannot imagine doing anything else.
How has Private Jet Services been dealing with Covid-19?
Since the start of the pandemic we have worked hard every day to facilitate necessary travel and engineer solutions that allow our customers to fly safely and confidently. We prioritize keeping clients updated on the status of domestic airports and international border closures and closely follow guidance from government and international health agencies, so we can make immediate operational changes as necessary.
We only work with reputable operators who maintain best practices informed by FAA requirements and Covid-19 guidelines. Overall, Private Jet Services has experienced little to no operational disruptions. In fact, our business has grown as people and companies look for safe and efficient ways to fly.
What are the best and worst elements of your job?
The clients are hands down the best part of my job. I am so fortunate to meet people who shape the world we live in. So many of them are kind, passionate, and enthusiastic. I find myself appreciating this exceptional group of humans every single day.
The worst part of my job is when a problem arises that impacts one of these incredible people. I like to say, “We don’t do disappointment.” So, I am always disappointed with myself when plans go awry.
Can you describe a typical day?
I’m up at 5 or 6 am to check my email for an hour or two and correspond on new projects in Europe and Asia. Working on new growth initiatives and using the quiet of the early morning for deep thinking and laying out my goals is the most exciting part of my day.
By 7 am I am typically at the gym or on my way to an airport. After that, most of my day is spent in meetings.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
Private Jet Services is in the midst of a massive growth phase, but we are not in the business of commoditizing air travel. Our goal is to provide mission-critical, specialized, and tailored experiences for a select group of industries and individuals.
To make this possible, our dedicated industry experts are very well-versed in the most nuanced details about our clients’ unique needs, allowing us to add personal touches to our unparalleled service.
What is the biggest trend currently affecting the business aviation sector?
The pandemic reshaped the entire landscape of business aviation, as many individuals and industries came to require the safety and reliability of this critical infrastructure. In particular, we have seen an increase in first-time private fliers that persists, even as the world reopens.
As a result of high demand and halted manufacturing operations across many industries, aircraft availability is challenging. While the industry is running up against a lack of new charter inventory, existing fleets are not large enough to handle the demand or requests for desired aircraft, time frames, and location challenges.
How do you manage the logistics of large events that may involve flight restrictions and slots shortages?
Our Flight Operations Center monitors every trip from start to finish, from the first consultation phone call to the moment our client returns home. We know the minute there is a change or a challenge to solve.
Thanks to our people-first model, we’re prepared to address anything that arises. We also always put a plan B in place for every trip to minimize surprises.
What does the future hold for Private Jet Services?
The company is in a phase of growth. Under our parent company, Elevate Holdings, we recently acquired Keystone Aviation and announced the expansion of our MRO business. Elevate Holdings, PJS Group, and Keystone Aviation will continue to focus on delivering outstanding white-glove service and mission-critical solutions to our clients.
We will be the provider that the industry desperately needs that is large enough to provide benefits to its clients at scale, without sacrificing the exemplary care that is so critical in a high-end service business.