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Aviation Blog

What It's Like to Coordinate Private-Jet Travel for Wealthy Clients – Business Insider

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This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Andy Christie, a 45-year-old group-private-jets director from Surbiton, England, about his job. It has been edited for length and clarity.
If you break it down into the simplest of terms, I’m a matchmaker.
As the group-private-jets director for Air Charter Service, it’s my job to find the ideal match between our client’s travel requirements and our extensive charter-operator network, which has access to everything from helicopters, private jets, and executive airliners to air ambulances, emergency-response charters, and cargo aircrafts.
After graduating from the University of Gloucestershire, I went on to become a personal trainer and ran a big health club, but I was fascinated by the aviation industry. Since the private-jet industry seemed way more exciting to me than that of commercial aviation, I took on the position of trainee broker, which is one of the best ways to start out in the business because you’re able to learn everything there is to know about the air-chartering industry.
As the low man on the totem pole, I spent long and, at times, grueling days cold-calling prospective clients to build up my own book of business. At the time, I was one of only 13 staff members divided among three countries.
Today, as the largest private-charter brokerage, we are 500 strong with 27 international offices on six continents representing 50 languages, a crucial skill set that comes in handy when dealing with foreign contracts, partners across the globe, and 2 a.m. calls from overseas handling agents.
These days, I personally oversee 130 brokers in the US, Australia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and everywhere in between. We arrange about 23,000 domestic and international flights per year.
My days are fast-paced and include a variety of responsibilities related to problem-solving, logistics, strategy, and growing our business.
Most people equate private-jet travel with ultrawealthy people, and while that’s certainly the bulk of our business, we also have more moderately priced flights — for instance, Teterboro, New Jersey, to the Hamptons in New York or Miami to the Bahamas ($3,000 each way) and our most popular route, Los Angeles to Vegas ($6,000 to $10,000 each way).
That said, I’ve certainly had my fair share of wildly extravagant demands.
There was an American guest who diverted his private jet midflight to make a pit stop at a local KFC to satisfy his sudden craving.
Then, there was a last-minute request from a Middle Eastern woman who took off to Paris for a weekend shopping jaunt, only to charter a cargo aircraft to carry all her purchases back home to the United Arab Emirates.
There was also a woman who flew from California to Texas and back with two days in between to get her hair done, opting for the most expensive heavy-jet option ($40,000 round trip) because of its tall cabin, which she said helped with her claustrophobia.
And let’s not forget the legendary rock star, who upon leaving his trademark hat in Europe dispatched a member of his staff to fly out, retrieve it, and personally deliver it to him in the US.
In addition to these over-the-top requests, we’ve also reunited families and pets, whisked cancer patients off to their medical treatments, flown a very ill 12-day-old baby from London to Gibraltar for emergency surgery, and even transported wild lions, dolphins, and orphaned bear cubs to sanctuaries and zoos.
During our 30 years in business, we’ve also played an integral role regularly supporting nongovernmental agencies, aid agencies, and governments by coordinating cargo charters filled with heavy vehicles, blankets, tents, personal protective equipment, and vaccines.
We’ve assisted with relief efforts in hard-to-reach destinations that scheduled services can’t access, such as natural-disaster zones. In these instances, we’ve delivered humanitarian aid in the form of food, medicine, and supplies to those affected by cyclones in Myanmar, earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, and a hurricane in Puerto Rico.
When COVID-19 hit, commercial air suddenly came to a standstill, which proved to be an unexpected boost for organizations like ours, since private-jet travel safely carried on up until just minutes before lockdowns.
The biggest difference between now and before the pandemic is the amount of paperwork required because of additional health and safety regulations, which make everything slightly more complicated and a bit slower.
We’ve encountered a dramatic surge in first-time private-jet customers. For those able to afford private-jet travel, time is no longer a restraint because you’re not forced to be on someone else’s timetable. Essentially, what people are finding is that money can buy them time as it allows them to come and go as they please. 
In this business, there are a lot of things that are hard to predict, but one thing I know for sure is once you’ve experienced what it’s like to pull up 15 minutes before your flight departs and board without any hassle, it’s going to be quite difficult to go back to commercial travel.
Do you have an interesting job and want to share your story with Insider? Email Lauryn Haas at lhaas@insider.com.
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