Presented by Wheels Up
In the past year, the private jet industry has been one of the few bright spots in an unprecedented travel downturn. The reason: an influx of new patrons, who have turned to private planes—which come with more flexibility over scheduling and the ability to choose your fellow passengers—in times of uncertainty.
“Last year, a large number of people were introduced to the benefits of business aviation,” a sector that covers both chartered flights and privately owned planes, says Ed Bolen, head of the National Business Aviation Association. “They now understand that it is a remarkably flexible and safe way to reach places, especially those that don’t have frequent airline service.”
The statistics bear that out. As of early 2021, scheduled air travel was still down by about 65 percent from pre-pandemic numbers; for chartered flights, after a dip last spring, demand is almost back to pre-COVID-19 levels, and analysts estimate that flight activity for the first half of 2021 will grow by 25 percent.
Some see this as part of the “democratization” of private flying that was under way even before the pandemic, as new apps and ride-sharing options made private air travel more accessible. “Those who previously considered private flying a luxury now see it as a necessary means of travel,” says Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer at Wheels Up, one of the largest private aviation operators in the country. “They’re using our services to reunite with friends and family after periods of quarantine, safely transport elderly family members throughout the course of the pandemic, conduct critical business trips, and much more,” he says.
Private aviation company Wheels Up operates several air craft, including the Beechcraft King Air 350i
In fact, 96 percent of private jet newbies said they plan to continue to take charter flights, at least occasionally, even after the pandemic eases, according to a survey by website Private Jet Card Comparisons. The poll also revealed that 41 percent of these converts will fly privately on a regular basis from now on, according to Doug Gollan, founder of the site.
Beyond that, there’s a significant untapped market for private aviation, Applbaum says. A recent study by consulting giant McKinsey showed that 93 percent of people who could afford to fly private currently do not. One way Wheels Up hopes to attract first-time private flyers is through an app that allows members and non-members to book private aircraft easily.
Another major advantage for private air travel is that the customer sets their own itineraries. Most flights, therefore, are point-to-point, and you determine when you depart. On-demand charter operators have access to around 5,000 public-use airports in the U.S., putting any destination, no matter how remote, within reach.
And then there’s the fact that on a private trip you’re likely traveling with a small group of people whom you know well—be it a family pod or business colleagues. The industry likes to measure trips in terms of “touchpoints,” Gollan says, or in other words, all the places and people you encounter on your journey. The average private aviation trip has fewer than 20 touchpoints in all, he says; in terms of exposure, that’s probably less than what you’d experience in a typical trip to the supermarket. Private airport terminals (where passenger wait times are minimal) are also rolling out new touch-free technology to further reduce these points of contact.
Ultimately, it’s likely that some private jet operators will become more like multi-service travel companies, says Applbaum. That could include partner benefits at hotels and resorts or regular shuttle flights from bigger cities to vacation destinations like Nantucket or the Hamptons. These longer-term changes will make private travel much more accessible—and have a major impact on the air travel industry as a whole.
This is part of a series on rethinking private travel, which explores how the pandemic has changed our approach to private travel and made it more accessible to all.
Condé Nast Traveler does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published by Condé Nast Traveler is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.
Benjamin Murray was named president and CEO of Skyservice. Murray, who joined Skyservice late last year initially as president and COO for a transition period before taking on the role of CEO, brings 20 years of business aviation leadership and operational experience to his new role. He was founder of North Star Solutions and previously served as president and CEO of Executive Jet Management and president of aircraft management and charter for Landmark Aviation.
Joe Park was promoted to managing partner of BizJetCPA. Park, who participates on NBAA’s Tax Committee, joined the firm in 2017 after serving with the international accounting firm Grant Thornton.
Pam Jets promoted Ben Harrow to president, Peter Westerberg to COO, and Emilio Lopez to v-p of global services. Most recently v-p of business development for Pam Jets, Harrow has more than a decade of leadership experience and has previously served as a U.S. Special Forces detachment commander. Westerberg has served as a pilot and aviation manager with more than 9,000 hours of civilian flight time in Part 91 and 135 operations, including at some Fortune 50 flight departments. Lopez has served as an aviation manager for several Fortune 500 companies.
Emlyn David has joined Jetscape Business Aviation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as a strategic advisor. David, who has 14 years of business and general aviation investment and strategic development experience, previously was CEO at Skyservice.
Ducommun Incorporated named Christopher Wampler to CFO, controller, and treasurer. Previously acting as interim CFO and treasurer, Wampler has served with Ducommun since 2013 and earlier served in controller positions with Just Fabulous and A.O. Smith Electrical Products.
PHI Aviation expanded its commercial team, naming Cory Latiolais chief commercial officer, Travis Latiolais v-p of commercial and business development, Chelsea Royall capture manager, and Cory Clark business development analyst. Cory Latiolais has worked in every facet of PHI’s business over the past 23 years, most recently as senior v-p of commercial and business development. Travis Latiolais brings a background in managing programs for multiple helicopter operators and OEMs, including Bristow, RLC, Airbus Helicopters, and most recently as v-p at Pathfinder Aviation. Royall was recently promoted to her new role that focuses on award and proposal strategies and Clark joins PHI from American Airlines.
James Hurley has joined Talon Air’s executive team. Hurley has served with Dassault Falcon Jet since 1988, most recently leading the U.S. sales force as senior v-p.
The Air Charter Safety Foundation added Richard Morris of CAE and Michael Wootton of Advanced Air to its board of governors. Morris, who has served as director of global safety, quality assurance, and compliance for CAE, previously spent six years with Etihad Airways. Wootton is director of operations for Advanced Air and has previously served with companies including NetJets, Basin Aviation, and Sierra West Airlines.
Michael Vercio has joined FlightSafety International as senior v-p of simulation systems. Vercio brings more than 15 years of aviation industry experience in engineering, manufacturing, and product support to his new role, most recently as general manager of Textron Aviation companies Able Aerospace and McCauley Propeller Systems.
Max Masterson was promoted to v-p of sales for AvAir. Most recently director of sales, Masterson joined AvAir in 2017 as an account executive with nearly six years of sales and marketing experience.
Deutsche Aircraft appointed Nico Neumann v-p of operations and programs, overseeing a number of aspects of the E328eco. Neumann had previously held a range of operational positions with 328 Support Services, most recently as director of maintenance and production
Eagle Creek Aviation promoted Randy Morelock to v-p of maintenance. Morelock joined Eagle Creek in 1998, holding the positions of director of avionics, project manager, and avionics technician. He also served as an avionics technician for the U.S. Marine Corps Light Attack Helicopter Squadron.
London Biggin Hill named Colin Hitchins head of the airport’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability. Hitchins formerly was community engagement manager at London Biggin Hill.
Pula Aviation Services Limited (PASL) promoted Jasmine Sohanta to head of its aircraft sales activities. Sohanta joined PASL in 2019 as a sales development and market analyst and also has served with Marshall Aircraft Sales.
Western Aircraft has filled a number of management positions. M. Tyler West was named Pilatus service manager. West has held positions with Pratt & Whitney and Boutique Air, in addition to Western Aircraft. Jeff Watson was appointed Falcon service manager. Serving with Western Aircraft since 2004, Watson previously was turboprop service manager. Brian Lair is the new quality assurance inspector. Lair joined Western Aircraft in 2007 and has since served as a maintenance technician, job lead, floor inspector, and quality control inspector. Adam Young was promoted to chief inspector. Young has seven years of jet aircraft maintenance experience, and five years of FAA Part 145 repair station quality assurance and quality control inspection experience. And, Elliott Rupp was promoted to Pilatus PC-24 tech rep. He joined Western Aircraft in 2011 and served as a lead technician.
Signature Flight Support promoted Richard Allsop to sales director for EMEA. Allsop, who most recently was senior sales manager, has served with Signature for 17 years. Signature also appointed Mike French to the newly created role of senior director for real estate and tenant products. French, who has served with the company for 14 years, most recently was director of FBO operations for Signature’s East region.
Adyson Aviation Group named Rich Eilers U.S. sales director. Eilers brings a 26-year background in the luxury assets business to his new role, most recently as customer service manager of Viking Yachting Center.
Savback Helicopters appointed Rick Andrew commercial director, establishing a presence in the UK for the first time. Andrew previously worked at Sloane Helicopters, a long-established Robinson and Leonardo Helicopters UK sales distributor.
FlightAware appointed Dave Diulus as director of sales enablement. Diulus previously was president of UVair Fuel and before that, COO at Universal Weather and Aviation.
Fargo Jet Center named Tricia Denny human resources manager. Denny has 15 years of human resources experience.
Awards and Honors
Embraer co-founder Ozires Silva was honored with the Daniel Guggenheim Medal, becoming the first Brazilian to receive the international recognition. Established in 1929 to honor innovators who have made notable achievements in the advancement of aeronautics, the medal is jointly sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, SAE International, and the Vertical Flight Society
Born on Jan. 8, 1931, in São Paulo, Brazil, Silva entered the Brazilian Air Force in 1948 and later received a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA). After graduating, he led the Aircraft Department of the Research and Development Institute and in 1965 began working on a project that ultimately would become the Bandeirante. As that program began to develop, Silva joined a group to create Embraer in 1969 to produce the regional twin turboprop. Silva would become the company's superintendent director until 1986 and then returned in 1992 for a brief stint as the company restructured.
Gary Hodak, a long-time avionics and completions specialist who served with Associated Air Center and King Aerospace, passed away on December 13 in Dallas from Alzheimer’s at the age of 69.
Born April 27, 1951, in Riga, Russia, his family immigrated to Israel while he was still a boy. He received his aeronautical training with the Israeli Air Force and served in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, according to the Texas Jewish Post. A year later he moved to the U.S., beginning his avionics career there with Atlantic Aviation in Wilmington, Delaware. He subsequently was hired by Sunstream Jet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Hodak spent 23 years with Associated Air Center in Dallas, where he served as director of avionics and managed BBJ and ACJ avionics and systems modifications. In 2010, he took a job with King Aerospace in Addison, Texas, where he was director of technical services overseeing large aircraft refurbishment programs.
Michael "Mike" O’Leary, a 50-year aviation veteran who had become the Aircraft Electronics Association’s (AEA) longest-serving chairman, died on February 14 from Covid-19 complications. He was 69. A celebration of life is tentatively scheduled for September 12 in Phoenix.
O’Leary, who had retired from Elliott Aviation in 2020, was born and raised on a farm in northwest Iowa. After graduating from Emmetsburg High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17 and served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a torpedo man on the USS Towers destroyer, according to AEA.
After leaving the military, he earned his pilot’s license and A&P mechanic license, beginning his career as an avionics installer. Over the years, he held positions with a number of avionics and electronics companies, including Midcoast Aviation. He was active with AEA, serving on the board of directors from 1996 to 2009 and chairman from 2002 to 2009, the longest tenure in the organization’s history.
Michael P. "Mike" Collins, who spent nearly three decades with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in various senior editorial and management roles, died on February 25 in Frederick, Maryland, from Covid-19. He was 59.
Born on Dec. 21, 1961, in Cleveland, Ohio, Collins graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1984 with a degree in photojournalism. He embarked on a career as a newspaper photographer and editor, but then helped launch The Southern Aviator, a regional aviation magazine, according to his obituary information.
In 1994, he joined AOPA as managing editor of AOPA Pilot magazine. AOPA said he “quickly became an integral player on the media team,” leading the magazine production process for AOPA Pilot and Flight Training, as well as steering the growth of its email newsletters such as AOPA ePilot. Most recently he was technical editor and director of business operations.
Passionate about photography, Collins served as the main organizer of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar’s photography awards program and on the board of the International Society of Aviation Photographers.
Copyright ©2021 The Convention News Company, Inc.
Spirit Airlines said Monday the cancellation of more than 2,800 flights over an 11-day stretch this summer cost the budget airline about $50 million in lost revenue and caused spending to soar.
The airline said the service meltdown that started in late July and a rise in COVID-19 cases are causing more last-minute cancellations and softer bookings.
Spirit said that it will reduce flights — it called the moves “tactical schedule reductions” — for the rest of the quarter, which ends Sept. 30.
With all the cancellations, and now fewer flights for the next six weeks, Spirit estimated that its third-quarter revenue will range between $885 million and $955 million, or 4% to 11% below the same quarter in pre-pandemic 2019.
►Airline cancel or delay your flight?: Here’s what airlines owe you (and how to get it)
►’Just a parade of incompetency’: Spirit Airlines passengers with ‘nightmare’ stories want more than apology, $50 vouchers
Spirit’s cancellation numbers have returned to more normal levels. However, the airline said that recovering from the crisis caused expenses to climb.
The airline said it paid to put some stranded passengers on flights operated by other airlines and covered their hotel stays. It also incurred higher labor costs, such as overtime.
►The good, the bad and the ugly: 7 hours at Spirit’s biggest hub on 7th day of meltdownSpirit forecast that its third-quarter operating expenses will be slightly above $1 billion — an increase of up to 20% over the third quarter of 2019.
The Miramar, Florida-based airline made the disclosures in a regulatory filing after the stock market closed Monday.
The airline’s shares fell more than 2% in after-market trading.
Spirit said it canceled 2,826 flights from July 30 through Aug. 9 as it dealt with “overlapping challenges” including bad weather, airport staffing shortages, and crews being stranded far from their assigned flights.
On some days during that stretch, the cancellations amounted to more than 60% of the airline’s schedule.
CEO Ted Christie apologized for the disruptions, which affected tens of thousands of customers around the country, while portraying them as out of character for the airline.
►’This is not our proudest moment’: Spirit Airlines CEO explains why thousands of flights were canceled
“We believe the interruption was a singular event driven by an unprecedented confluence of factors and does not reflect systemic issues,” Christie said. He said Spirit has made investments “to be one of the most efficient and reliable airlines in the U.S. industry” and is taking steps “to make sure we maintain that standard.”
In recent years, Spirit has scored in the middle of the pack or better for on-time arrivals, as tracked by the federal government. It was third-best last year, behind only Hawaiian Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
However, Spirit has struggled with a high rate of consumer complaints for many years. In 2019, it had the highest rate of complaints among 16 airlines in rankings compiled by the Transportation Department. It improved to 12th out of 16 last year.