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By Chris | February 17 2014
Elite Traveler meets Adam Twidell, CEO and Founder of PrivateFly.
Elite Traveler: What is PrivateFly?
Adam Twidell: PrivateFly is a global booking platform for private jet charter flights. Connecting customers with available aircraft, PrivateFly makes it much quicker and more transparent to compare and book private jet charter flights.
ET: Where did the idea come from?
AT: As a former Air Force and private jet pilot, I saw the private jet industry from perspectives of customer, operator, and FBO – and how fragmented and inefficient the charter segment was. I saw a gap in the market for a technology-driven platform, connecting customers with a global network of private jet operators. Following patterns in airlines and wider travel industry, technology had transformed travel brokering, so why not the private jet market? I also like a challenge, and with many industry traditionalists saying that no-one will book a private jet online, I took that challenge head-on!
ET: How is this different from other services on the market?
AT: PrivateFly is a technology platform, and a hybrid business model. Customers can get instant market pricing online or via app, and can book flights end-to-end online if they want to. The system is integrated with a global network of over 7,000 accredited aircraft, tracking real-time location and availability. This means that the customer gets best possible pricing and aircraft choice, in the fastest time.
Compared to other services, PrivateFly uses technology to compare the market more widely and more quickly. It also makes it much easier for the private jet operators (the suppliers) to market their aircraft availability and find charter business. But we are more than just a website – our flight team are multilingual private aviation professionals, offering a full VIP service for customers 24/7. We realised that private jet customers still want to talk to our team, as well as using our technology.
ET: What are the key things private jet travelers are looking for when buying flights?
AT: Price, speed and service. The profile of the private jet customer is changing, for both business and leisure flights. The recession has also accelerated change in the market, creating greater demand for ease and speed of booking. Cost-consciousness is high; customers want to know they have secured the best possible price.
The ultimate luxury is time saving (that’s a key reason many leisure and business customers choose private aviation in the first place). But we’re also firmly focused on saving our customers time in the booking process as well – we recently saw a family book a private jet via the PrivateFly app, on the way to the airport. They were airborne within 45 minutes. Booking lead-times in general have shortened considerably with customers often booking flights for the same day, or even within the hour.
Professionalism is paramount – it’s about trust and service. Knowing the aircraft is accredited and safe, trusting the information (either online or via our 24 hour team), and getting consistent, excellent service through from enquiry to the end of the flight.
ET: Your website has quite a bit of lifestyle content. Obviously you have a different take on the private aviation market?
AT: Our take is that private jet customers – just like any other – want to be informed, up-to-date and inspired. We’re a technology-driven company, and this applies to our service, our marketing methods, and our customer experience. We’re passionate about private jets and everything that goes with them, and we think many of our customers are too! We’re also very reactive to business trends and the news agenda – as a brand, we want PrivateFly to be a relevant, topical authority for our customers.
ET: What are the most popular destinations/routes?
AT: Private aviation uses ten times more airports than scheduled airlines, so the route network is endless. One of the key drivers is to be able to get from A to B directly in the shortest possible time, so in many cases, private aviation is used to fill gaps in airline schedules.
In Europe the busiest private jet airport is Paris Le Bourget, and the route between Paris to Geneva is popular year-round. Other private jet hotspots in Europe include London, Nice, Moscow Vnukovo, and Milan. In the USA, the busiest private jet airports are LA Van Nuys and New York Teterboro. Like Paris Le Bourget, both are dedicated private jet airports.
Key routings in the US are from Las Vegas McCarran, Englewood, Daytona Beach, Miami and the Caribbean.
Global events create spikes in traffic – for example the Monaco Grand Prix and Cannes Film Festival weekend sees the annual peak in Europe, and the Super Bowl finals see some of the biggest private jet gatherings anywhere in the world.
ET: How did you get involved in private aviation?
AT: I was in the British Royal Air Force for 10 years, then left to join NetJets where I spent three years flying the Citation Excel as a captain.
But I always wanted to set up my own business. Before PrivateFly, I launched a consultancy company, working with London City Airport and RAF Northolt on two of London’s most premium FBOs. I love being a pilot, but also wanted to work on the business side of private aviation, as I saw so much opportunity there. I still fly the Citation XLS, I don’t think the pilot passion will ever leave me!
ET: Where do you see the company in five years?
In five years, PrivateFly will be an established, global brand leader for private jet charter. We’ve launched in the US market, Russia, France and Germany in the last 18 months and other territories are being developed. I think our business will also shift operationally – at the moment we offer booking online, via app or via our 24 hour team.
Although that blend will always be there, I think the proportions will shift dramatically. 10% of our bookings now come via app and I expect that to grow significantly, as well as those booking end-to-end online. Technology is the biggest game-changer in the private jet market now, and it’s exciting to be at the forefront of that.