Taking flight with my father

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I’m asked all the time how I got into the private charter jet business and if I ever considered doing anything else. The answers are easy: ‘My dad’ and ‘no.’

For nearly 25 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to own a private charter business with my dad, Happy Wells, founder of Private Jets, Inc. With Father’s Day approaching, this is a time of year when I reflect on the impact that aviation and family have had on my life, my career and our family.

Not everyone can successfully run a business with their dad and maintain a strong family bond. What started as a passion for us has translated into a growing business that ultimately benefits our customers.

My dad started flying at the age of 17. He worked at a grocery store to earn money to pay for his flying lessons. He loved flying and wanted to be in the business full-time.

Happy was in his 30s when he realized that and started running a flight school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I was a young child at that time so I’ve literally grown up in the aviation industry.

I always loved being around planes. I was fascinated with the aircraft and loved getting off the ground as often as possible. I started flying at age 16 and got all my licenses on my 18th birthday.

I started flying a Learjet two weeks after that and I’ve been doing it ever since. I vividly remember my dad telling me this had better be what I want to do with my life if he was going to invest in flight school for me, and I think he is pleased with his investment.

In 1995, right after I got my pilot’s license, we went into business together. We purchased what was then Oklahoma Executive Jet Charter. The company had three propeller planes and one base when Happy and I bought it, and we’ve grown to operating 23 aircraft across bases in Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. We rebranded the company to Private Jets in 2002.

During that time of considerable expansion, we realized our family-owned status was contributing to our increased demand for business. While many aviation-related businesses are family-owned, my dad and I are unique because we’ve had the same priorities for the last 25 years, which doesn’t always happen within family operations.

We’ve always agreed the customer takes precedence over everything else. If it’s not good for the customer, we’re not going to do it.

We’re family. And when you fly with us, you’re part of our family. We treat people as such by remembering the little things, like their favorite beverages and newspapers so we can have those items ready upon boarding.

Just like parents say they love their kids equally but show it in different ways, we treat each of our customers with the same level of respect but we know they have different likes and dislikes. Rather than offering standard packages, we have specialized services for each customer to suit them.

With some companies, you may fly with a different pilot every time, but Happy and I have consistently flown with the same people, which enables us to remember the little things that matter. We’ve done that because we both love flying and our customers.

The attitude Happy and I have cultivated is palpable throughout the company. We have some of the best flight coordinators in the country. No matter what time of day or night you call, you’ll speak to someone who is waiting to help you with your travel needs.

Our emphasis on customer service has been the foundation of our success. Whether a third generation will carry the business forward remains to be seen. In the meantime, my dad and I celebrate each day that we get to work together, and we believe our focus on the customer will be our business’ legacy for years to come.

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About Author

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Kirstie worked full-time on Business Airport International for over two years and is now a freelance journalist. Away from her writing commitments, you will find her blogging on her lifestyle website or training for her next charity run.

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