Rena Davenport, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based Exquisite Air Charter discusses what she believes the biggest trend currently affecting the sector is and how she ensures her company stands out from her competitors.
What was your career path to your current role?
I was initially intrigued by the industry through a friendship with someone working in the field. We became close friends, and she was released from her charter sales position. During our friendship, I had been exposed to her working while on-call quite a bit. I suggested we start our own charter brokerage, and we did. She ended up pulling out and I knew I did not have enough experience to be great on my own, so I took a step back from Exquisite Air Charter and worked for a few operators. I have loved the industry from the very beginning and always knew I wanted to return to Exquisite Air Charter, so I did. In an effort to be the best I could, I returned to school and earned my Bachelor of Science in Aviation Business Administration with a minor in Project Management and a certificate in Aviation Safety and went on to earn my Master of Business Administration in Aviation with concentration in Marketing; both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
What are the best and less favorable elements of your job?
I really enjoy our customers. They are the best part of what we do. Some of our customers have been with us for well over a decade. They are more like friends than customers. We are very blessed to have the best customers anyone could ever hope for. There are not too many negatives when you truly love what you do but mechanicals are probably the most stressful. We have never left a customer stranded (we are proud of that) but there are times, like peak travel seasons, when a mechanical is especially difficult to recover and that is very stressful.
Can you describe a typical day?
My typical day starts around 5am. Because we engage in a considerable amount of international business, there are always plenty of emails to catch up on first thing in the morning. Once I go through those emails, I delegate anything I can and then organize my day according to what is most in need of my attention. I make sure flight tracking is set up on my flight tracking monitors to keep all flights in my view. I tend to micromanage flights in progress; I want everything to be perfect for our guests. If there are flights departing from or arriving to the greater Los Angeles area, I will usually go to personally meet the airplane and greet the passengers. I think it is important to show the human side of who we are and really let our guests know they matter. I continue with business and guest matters throughout the day and dodge as many sales calls as I can.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
I lead from a position of true aviation experience and knowledge, both on-the-job experience and formal aviation education, in an industry that is under regulated for brokers. A lot of brokers don’t like that I hold the position of wanting brokers to be more regulated, but I absolutely do. I think it is so important for the safety of our passengers and the integrity of the industry as a whole. We also address doing business in a very personable fashion. More than a few customers have shared how we make them feel like they are our only customer. I really like that feedback, it’s the best compliment!
What is the most significant trend currently affecting the business aviation sector?
Currently, I feel the most significant trend affecting business aviation is jet cards and programs. These programs are the private jet equivalent to subscriptions but often without the security of being able to cancel at any time, as most require the pre-paid purchase of either a set number of hours or a predetermined length of membership. The ones selling for below market value are scary because the programs who entered the market selling below market value in the past have raised a lot of capital and sold a lot of memberships and then failed; leaving investors and passengers stranded. The ones that are selling for more realistic price points are often not the most economical option for the client and/or the clients do not receive the best service once they are under contract. We stay away from these types of programs but do offer a pre-paid business trust account for convenience.
What does the future hold for Exquisite Air Charter Facility?
Growth! That is our goal. When I was a young, single mother I wanted to work for this one particular company that had an on-site childcare facility (I never got the opportunity). I would like to grow and be able to offer employees the kind of work environment that I never had but often dreamed about; one that respects and supports family and community beyond what one might imagine. I want our employees to love what they do as much as I do and love coming to work because they know they matter and are appreciated and supported both personally and professionally. I want them to grow while they are with us but love their work environment so much that they never want to leave. That has always been my dream for Exquisite Air Charter.