A day in the life of LEA's commercial manager
By Chris Watson, commercial manager, London Executive Aviation (LEA).
Chris Watson, LEA’s commercial manager, has been with the company since 2005. He worked in the operations team for six years, before heading up the commercial department. Whilst there is no ‘typical day’ at LEA for Chris, sometimes it goes a little like this...
We work very closely with LEA’s operations team, who kick-start every morning by checking logistical issues such as weather developments and industrial strike action which could affect that day’s flights. We are also monitoring the situation in current war zones on a daily basis. In the commercial department, we liaise with the client to ensure they are fully updated on any issues which may affect their flight. Industrial strike action at the main airports in France, for example, may lead us to offer an alternative route to detour from the problem area. Adverse weather conditions may demand an unscheduled fuel-stop, especially if head-winds are forecast.
Early mornings are often spent dealing with a range of queries which have come through via email or on the phone. The most commonly asked questions are practical queries about the flight, usually regarding baggage, catering and cabin layout, which are all dependant on the size of aircraft. There are, of course, lots of non-standard questions. Recently, we had to explain to a passenger that, even though he had a pilot’s licence, he wouldn’t be allowed to fly the aircraft as all our pilots have to be trained and approved by LEA. We’ve often had to accommodate passengers with medical issues who need to fly below 10,000ft unpressurised. This is possible but we have to explain this does increase the cost as it uses more fuel.
At LEA we handle, on average, around 200-250 quotes a day across our fleet of 26 aircraft. These quote requests come in via email, phone calls and via Avinode. There are two of us in the commercial team who are dedicated to ensuring all of those quotes are responded to as quickly and accurately as possible.
A large part of my role is making sure LEA’s aircraft are flying as much as possible. Mid morning, it’s about juggling the schedules to ensure there are as few empty legs as we can manage. We monitor and link our clients’ flights to maximise the efficiency of the fleet.
When we have significant empty legs available, we work with our marketing team to produce marketing material which goes out to our brokers and clients, to make them aware of the opportunities. New York-London and Dubai-London are routes which are useful to a lot of our clients. Over the summer, we often have empty legs back from Nice, Palma and many other typical summer destinations. If an aircraft is going to be sitting at an airport for a couple of days, we’ll make sure we let people know it’s available.
This summer, we’ve had to stay on top of the music festivals, getting our artists from A to B in time for them to perform. We work with a lot of big band tours, with the band often keeping the same aircraft for the whole tour.
Late mornings, I usually have a meeting scheduled. This could be with LEA’s cabin service manager to discuss client requests and catering, with our ops manager to discuss crewing or our maintenance manager to arrange upcoming scheduled maintenance.
Today, I had lunch at Stapleford’s airport café with our chief executive Patrick Margetson-Rushmore. We went through some booking changes and special requests that had come through from clients. We do our very best to accommodate all of our passengers’ needs and are used to last-minute changes.
I also discussed with Patrick the financial side of the business. He is kept fully updated, on a daily basis, of how many charter hours we are doing and what the demand and availability is for our aircraft.
In the office, I sit next to our managing director, George Galanopoulos, so we have a constant dialogue about the day-to-day running of the business.
It’s important to us at LEA to meet our clients personally, to engage with them and put faces to the brand. We try and get out to the airports whenever possible to ensure our clients are happy and that their experience is running smoothly. This might involve travelling to London Luton, TAG Farnborough or London City Airport, for example.
Back in the office, part of my role is to ensure all our clients are invoiced correctly and that payment has been made on time.
We hold events for our brokers and clients and they in turn invite us to their events. I’ve been to Ascot this year and the Farnborough Air Show, hosted by our brokers. We also hold regular drinks receptions in London and at LEA’s annual polo event to ensure we have the opportunity to thank our existing clients and build new relationships.
Every day at LEA is different. I’m very lucky to work alongside such a committed and hard-working team. I get to meet people from all walks of life, to manage their travel experience and to offer them the very best in customer service. 7pm is generally home-time, sometimes later, sometimes earlier; but it doesn’t stop there as I’m always monitoring the Blackberry and liaising with our 24/7 duty ops team until I go to bed – when I’m then on duty with my 18 month old! Long days, but every day is fun.
Published in BlueSky 7 August 2014
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