Memo Influencer

Let’s jet together to fix private air travel…

By Clive Jackson 9 February 2018
Image: Getty/EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER.
Summary

Victor founder Clive Jackson shares his thoughts on the future of private flight.

Editor’s Note: Clive Jackson is Founder-CEO of Alyssum Group – owner of leading private jet charter marketplace Victor.

He’s also one of The Memo’s Influencers, a group of industry experts sharing their views.

I’ve been asked a few times already this year – where do I see private aviation heading in 2018? It’s an apt question, because major industry change is on the horizon.

What exactly do I mean? Well, I think we can expect to see the private aviation space uniting and collaborating more. It has, in fact, already started to happen.

Various businesses – online charter platforms through to aviation fuel and tech suppliers, and aircraft management providers – are merging, acquiring others or launching partnerships to fuel their growth and expansion.

But more can and will be done through collaboration.

Image: Getty/Flightlevel80.

A ‘joined up’ approach means happy customers

The private aviation industry needs a ‘joined-up’ approach to ensure customers come first, receiving better service and value.

It has long been fragmented, dominated by a vast number of jet brokers – middlemen who source and book charter on behalf of the customer. But these intermediaries often fail to share specific details of the aircraft being chartered – including tail number and jet operator – or their profit margin.

This is basically to prevent flyers dealing with the operator directly and to ensure the broker maximizes their earnings at all costs. The customer, in turn, has no control over their travel and no idea of whether or not they’re getting great value.

It still surprises me that this behaviour has persisted for so long.

It’s incredible that so many charter providers still confuse the need to deliver high-end customer service with the need to withhold certain aircraft and pricing information from flyers.

Many brokers renegotiate the wholesale prices they receive from jet operators in order to deliver competitive quotes.

However, they will usually preference protecting their own margin over working with the operator to find genuinely better value for customers. It’s a terrible waste of time and energy – slowing and obscuring the booking process; hurting the customer.

Image: Getty/Predrag Vuckovic.

An investor calls

As the jet charter market – worth $12.5bn annually – changes, interest from potential investors increases.

Future investors (as well as existing shareholders for that matter) are getting way more savvy about how it all operates, and will play a bigger role in determining where it goes next.

They can see through the traditionally opaque broker model, and are wise to the ‘bait and switch’ tactics some newer charter platforms have adopted – platforms tempting customers to sign inflexible membership contracts and pay upfront fees by dangling too-good-to-be-true incentives.

Investors know that nothing good ever comes easily. In private aviation, companies with the kind of sustainable planning that takes them far beyond simply grabbing the next sale will be those most likely to secure committed, long-term investment.

Technology is key

The semi-automation of jet charter will be a huge focus for many in 2018.

Using learnings from data analysis to drive truly intuitive digital booking for flyers, and combining that with world-class human-to-human customer service is a new industry behaviour that will revolutionise private travel.

It stands to increase transparency and raise business standards, whilst boosting profitability and growth.

High-end hotel groups operating across multiple time zones, and major commercial airlines with their multiple fare classes and ticket options, would not be able to function without semi-automation, and the enforceable governance that this provides. Their various customers and partners would likely walk away if faced with the prevailing business practices that plague private aviation.

Our industry still has a way to go.

Looking ahead…

Having spent over 20 years developing digital platforms for a range of different industries I can see the opportunity for change in private aviation, to make it more accessible to the future global traveller.

The days when customers are disadvantaged by brokers using often unregulated booking processes are numbered. It’s time for new alliances between aviation businesses who share the same values and vision to innovate for the good of the wider community.

An industry where the customer comes first, and where great, accessible service and value are a given – whether the booking process is navigated by app, website or phone call – will be the best measure of success.

More than that, we’ll be helping to mobilise and connect the world like never before.

Now that’s a really exciting thought.