Ever dream of avoiding the long lines at airports? Not being crammed in with a hundred strangers? Or, having to wait for all hundred people to be seated or to get off? Ever dream of the luxurious life of flying private jets with relaxing leather seats? Well, you’re not alone. I too have wondered when it would be my turn to “fly private.”
I had the opportunity this week to interview, Adam Twidell, CEO and Founder of PrivateFly. PrivateFly is a global private jet charter broker that provides a booking platform for private jet charter flights covering 19 countries. Connecting customers with available aircraft, PrivateFly makes it much quicker and more transparent to compare and book private jet charter flights.
How did you come up with the idea for PrivateFly?
Adam: I was a pilot, and still am, and started in the military and flew in the UK Air Force for 10 years and when I left, the general route for pilots after the military is to join the airlines. I just looked at the job of a pilot in an airline, and it wasn’t for me. I discovered private jets and started flying private jets. I think it was during that time that I was speaking to so many customers and realized that they were flying by private jets, and a lot of passengers were unhappy because they didn’t know if they were paying too much for their flights. I looked at very other fragmented marketplace and financial services or just airline travel, and it all had been completely changed by the internet. Here was an area of travel, private aviation that nobody was connecting customers with the aircraft operators in an online environment in the marketplace. So I talked about this with my wife, Carol, she worked for Conde Nast one of their travel magazines, and she understood about travel and marketing, and we decided to sell our house to seek money into the company and develop the software. Spoting the gap in the market was the reason for launching PrivateFly.
Do you remember the first time you flew private?
Adam: The first time I flew privately, I was the pilot. I think I might have been as apprehensive as a customer who never flew privately before. There are all the questions of where to go and how it works. There are a lot of people, probably the vast majority of travelers, who don’t understand about the logistics of how you fly private. Let me demystify it.
First, there is almost always a private jet terminal which is separate from the commercial terminals. The one you see here (note, we were at the Ft Lauderdale Executive Airport) is I would say, a larger private jet terminal than is typical. In Ft Lauderdale, the Executive Airport is separate from the general airport. Sometimes, the private jet terminal is a small building at the general airport. Secondly, the private terminal itself doesn’t get much use. Passengers arrive and often they go straight to the aircraft. Typically, the captain will be waiting besides the entrance. As the passengers arrive, he will greet them, say hello, and walk straight onto the aircraft. The idea is to be in the air literally five minutes after arriving. The private jet terminal has a nice lounge facility, but often, the passengers do not use it, they normally go straight to the aircraft. One exception is when a small business group is traveling. It’s funny when you fly a group of business guys, the boss is almost always the last person to arrive and the most junior guy is the first to arrive. The more junior you are the more terrified you are of delaying the boss. You will probably arrive an hour in advance just to be sure. The boss knows that if he’s late it doesn’t matter because everyone is going to wait for him (or her). That’s one of the benefits of private aviation, you aren’t going to miss your plane.
Carmen: When I travel with the family, I have to arrive to the airport so far in advance, go through security, and wait. Do they have security on private as well?
Adam: The security here is part of the flow and you wouldn’t know of it happening. The same regulations apply, it’s just done in a much more informal manner. There are certainly no queues.
If people want to use the service, what does it cost, and do they did tend to use it for business or pleasure?
Adam: That’s interesting because I think Europeans are using private aviation much more for leisure use than business. In the States it’s more 50/50. I think business understands in the States that it’s a business tool and if you were paying your chief executive millions of dollars a year, his hourly rate means you don’t want him at a queue for security at Miami International. You would rather have him depart straight away and do two or three meetings in the day and come back and be ready to work the next day, rather than having a long airline schedule. It’s obviously a mix so you’ve got the corporate use, leisure use, high net worth individuals, and also people use private aviation for one offs. Sometimes it’s an unfortunate circumstance that they’ve got a family member who is ill, or dying and you need to get back to see them. What’s the price you would pay to help a family member? Other times it’s because you have elderly parents and young children and you can afford to do it, why go through the pain of going through the airport?
Do you allow pets as well on flights?
Adam: Yes, pets fly too. “Pets on Jets” is now a thing. There are regulations about flying pets internationally, they have to have passports and have their documents up to date. There are no reasons why pets can’t fly. A lot of people like that because it allows them stress-free travel for the family. Especially, people relocating. We do a number of flights across the Atlantic with people with pets. Pets are welcome on private jets.
What is the number one reason people use the service?
Adam: Our technology is why our customers like our product, because we deliver lower prices quicker than everybody else. We have a team of experts as well, we are online, we have an app that you can go all the way through the booking process without having to speak to people, but we would actually prefer to speak to you because we like speaking to our customers.
If I was a customer and went online right now on your app, would I get an instead quote depending on where I want to go?
Adam: The first thing you do is you put in where you want to fly, and we would return an estimated price instantly to you to give you a ball park figure. Returning customers bypass that and go straight to the market so their flight goes to the tendering process, and that’s what would happen to your flight. Then, the aircraft operators on our network would be quoting and quoting against each other to deliver the best valued flight. We sell flights partially because of our speedy response. In this day and age passengers are used to instant info when they are booking an airline flight and so why the same for a private jet? So, we feel we have have to get quotes quickly to the customers and also, the actual prices are very important.
Do customers get to choose what type jets they want?
Adam: Yes, depending on their requirements, we can give them a range. Some of our customers are very specific. Our Russian customers know exactly what type of aircrafts they like to fly on, and more importantly the age, and the interior of the cabins, and how the aircraft is layout. These are all critical decisions, We display all of that or we can hold the hand of the customer or the customer can choose on their own which aircraft they want to fly. We’ll go look at one in a minute.
Adam: I think we are just coming out of the big recession and the customer has changed in attitude. They don’t want to pay in advance for their flights. They want to know what it’s costing each time. When you buy a fractional program, you are committing for three years, and a lot of very savy private jet customers now don’t want to enter into long contracts. They want to pay as they go and make sure they are getting the best value flight every time. Having the freedom and not having the financial commitment is important.
What are your most popular routes and destinations?
Adam: The most popular route is Los Angeles to Los Vegas. Those are selling like hotcakes. It’s a relatively short flight and on a small aircraft, it doesn’t have to be that expensive per seat. You can get it down to $400-$500 per seat if your sharing a 6 or 7 seat aircraft. Other routes such as New York across to LA, New York to Boston, and New York to Miami are very popular. From here, Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean is very popular. In Europe, Geneva to Paris is the most popular followed by Moscow to Geneva. Geneva is a business and banking center and a skiing center so it’s popular with business and leisure. Ibiza was the most popular destination this past summer. There were days that there weren’t enough slots or parking positions for all of the private jets that wanted to come. So, customers had to be flexible because of the congestion. They’re building another 20 parking slots for next summer.
Will you be adding more routes soon?
Adam: The beauty of private aviation is that there are no set routes. Two thirds of our flights go on routes that commercial airlines don’t fly. And that’s even on board. So, if you book a flight to go to Nassau in the Bahamas and you might get a phone call enroute that the yacht that you are going to join is now at St Maarten. When you’re flying private, you can just go up to the pilot and give him a change of plans.
Wow, that’s not something that I can do on a commercial flight!
So that’s the story. I got to sit on the jet for a half hour and frankly, it’s fantastic. Now that I’ve seen what a private jet is like, I’ve put a private jet flight on my personal bucket list.
If you have any questions on private aviation, or need private jet hire prices you can contact the team of jet experts at PrivateFly 24 hours by phone on 866-726-1222 or use the app PrivateFly.