At the vanguard of this revolution over the past six years has been 365 Aviation, a London-based brokerage with access to over 4,000 aircrafts across the world.
We sat down with Chris Tofts, founder and CEO of 365 Aviation, to learn more about the company and why it has excellence in customer service woven into its DNA.
Superyachts: Can you tell us a little about the business and operational mechanics of the company and how they differ to some of the more traditional rivals in the private aviation sector?
Chris Tofts: The first thing to say is that we are not a big corporate charter broker. We are a small team which lives and breathes aviation We try to provide our clients with a dedicated service, and to bespoke their flight as much as possible.
In terms of the operational mechanics, we can be flexible around a client's requests and ensure that they only have to deal with one broker. If you’re dealing with a larger company, you may actually end up dealing with two or three members of the team versus just one dedicated broker.
The type of people we’re dealing with are ultra-high-net-worth individuals and they expect a certain level of service. They expect to be speaking with that one person only. So that’s what we try to achieve for them.
SY: Private aviation is a hugely competitive sector – what are some of your unique selling points in terms of the services you provide?
CT: We work in a service industry and I suppose it is that extra mile you go for your clients. Certainly I'd like to think we go those extra lengths, for example even before a client confirms their booking we’ll contact the necessary airports to make sure there are no closures.
We’ll also organise catering and make reservations at client's preferred restaurants. If they want to have the black cod from Nobu then we’ll contact Nobu to arrange for a caterer to pick that up.
We have other clients that want on-board beauty treatments, so we’ll source a beauty therapist, who’ll provide the treatments they’ve asked for. We have some clients who won’t even accept hard copies of newspapers, we've actually even gone to the point of buying an iPad, downloading PressReader and literally handing them an iPad instead of newspapers for them to read.
It's that kind of attention to detail, going that little bit further, which is our USP. We are a broker, yes, but I suppose we’re also a concierge company too? We’ll try and give a client everything they’ve asked for and try not to disappoint them or to say no to any of their requests. As long as they are ‘legitimate’, let me just add that!
SY: What were the main challenges of stamping your mark as a brand among all of the more traditional players in the market?
CT: For us initially, it was about attending networking events, meetings, going to industry shows such as the likes of EBACE or to the NBAA in America. It was a matter of getting our name out in the marketplace. Certainly I already knew some clients and once they heard that I was starting another company they came on board. But it’s mainly been about referrals and word of mouth. That's really how we've built the brand.
There's no magic formula to bringing on new clients. If there was then trust me I would have bottled it and sold it a long time ago.
I think one thing that my business partner and I really wanted was a physical office in the City of London. There isn't another private jet broker there, so we’re in a good position to take advantage of that geographical location.
SY: What about the scope of aircrafts that you have access to?
CT: We have access to over 4,000 aircraft, so excuse the pun but the sky's the limit. It really is down to what our clients are looking for. We could have a client who has a £4k budget and wants to fly from London to Paris. Then we’d be looking at a very small light jet or turbo prop aircraft. We have other clients who want to literally travel trans-Atlantic / trans-Pacific and in those cases we start looking at the ultra-long range aircraft which can perform those type of flights.
SY: How strong are your relationships in the world of super yachts?
CT: We have clients who have their own super yachts. Some of the yacht brokers actually approach us and use our services for their clients. So are we familiar? Yes, because obviously private jets and private boats do go hand in hand.
SY: Do you have any plans for expansion, in particular around new and emerging markets?
CT: Absolutely. My business partner is over from Hong Kong this week, and it's something we're going to discuss. We'd like to think in the near future that we'll open offices in Asia.
The Asian market is certainly an area in which we are very much interested in expanding to. We have quite a big percentage of our business that comes from that region, so it goes hand in hand to have an office there to give us a better reach and to explore new opportunities. I'd like to think that probably in the next 12 to 24 months there’ll be some news.
SY: Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers about 365 Aviation?
CT: The message that I'd like to get across is that there are a lot of other brokers out there in the industry, but what we bring is a very bespoke and dedicated team of professionals who ultimately want to make each trip special and unique.