In 2019, a Western Canadian hotel chain purchased a remote property that needed extensive renovations.
“We had to visit frequently and it was far away,” recalled the CEO of the privately-owned company. “We needed a plane.”
The company had previously owned an aircraft, and the CEO, believing it was better to own, set out to research the possibilities. He was focused on the cost per hour; and believing he had found the right aircraft, he even issued a letter of intent to purchase.
“Then, going through our operating budget, I realized I’d have to spend three times as much money to buy it as I’d have to spend to buy fractions in three planes – the operating budget was the same! I’d have to charter my aircraft out for several hundred hours to recoup my costs. It seemed to be a no-brainer to take the fractional route,” he said.
The company purchased fractional shares of all three aircraft in the AirSprint fleet: the Embraer Praetor 500, Cessna Citation CJ3+ and Cessna Citation CJ2+.
“For us, we have lots of missions that are an hour to 90 minutes, but some are over three hours,” said the CEO. “So, that was an attractive thing for us. I pick my plane based on my mission.”
Generally, aircraft carry about eight staff members to various properties in the hotel chain, including those in Alaska and Kananaskis in the Alberta Rockies. Usage is in the neighbourhood of 75 hours per year.
“We flew a planeful of staff, our training team, from Kananaskis to Alaska. To do that commercially, those people would have flown for 20 hours, eight or nine of them, and the time commitment would have been crazy.”
That flexibility is the reason why the company made the investment in private aviation. As a growing business, the aircraft enables the company to pursue new opportunities and acquisitions in geographical areas that previously wouldn’t have been considered.
“When you can hop on a plane for a day and bring your key lieutenants with you, you realize it’s possible,” said the CEO. “Balance and family is a big part of the equation. To give myself and our staff time back with their families is important. If they’d otherwise have to leave on a Saturday to go to Alaska, that’s a lot different than leaving Monday morning. Everyone views it as a perk. It makes things possible that wouldn’t normally be possible.”
He also said flight time is productive time, with team meetings taking place during flights.
“There’s no doubt about it: Walking onto a private aircraft is a treat and it makes you feel motivated and driven to succeed.”
While this CEO still flies commercial when it makes sense to do so, there are other times when a private leg is the only way to make a connection work.
“I’m pretty involved with my kids. We’re working on a project in Denver, and I can stay and have all these meetings and still make it home in time for a choir recital, a hockey tournament, etc. For me, I wouldn’t do things if I had to sacrifice time with my kids. Having the plane aligns with my personal values to spend as much time as possible with my family.”
“I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if I didn’t have it.”
On a recent trip, the hospitality executive said he visited several locations in Southern California. The entire itinerary took just a couple of days versus perhaps twice as much when flying commercial. He pointed out that private aircraft can access smaller airports closer to his ultimate destination, which translates into more efficient travel.
“I would say that for businesses that are growing or have multiple locations, it’s pretty hard to replace a jet. It has a dramatic effect on burnout. Every time I fly commercially, I hate it.”
As for time and energy, there’s no question in his mind that flying with AirSprint conserves both.
“It’s expensive, but as soon as your time is worth more than the plane, you should be flying on the plane,” he said. “If you make a million dollars a year, that’s about $500 an hour. When you rationalize how many hours you waste in commercial travel, the value becomes apparent. Then add in the value of staff time.”
Travellers are at the whim of commercial schedules, he pointed out, and it can be difficult to maintain personal time or important routines, such as exercise.
“I think of private aviation as efficiency – it’s so much better to do things with a fresh, clear mind. Days feel less gruelling. Over time, it’s better for work/life balance, and that value compounds.”
“I think it’s a very valid expense, although you have to be at a certain place. But for us, it’s money well spent.”