31.03.2010

Delivery Heaven, Delivery Hell (Part II)

In my last article, I looked at the process of buying and collecting a new business jet, up to the point when you bring the aircraft home. So what happens next?

The aircraft is standing by on the ramp, ready to fly. You can sit back and watch all the eager customers form a queue, right? Not a chance. You need to make the business happen.

At LEA, brokers are effectively the marketing arm of our business, so naturally we need to ensure that they have all the information they need about the new aircraft to promote our services accurately. That information goes far beyond basic pricing details. In order to do their jobs as productively as possible, brokers need to understand thoroughly the capabilities, and indeed the limitations, of the aircraft. Availability details need to be clear too, particularly if the aircraft is being managed on behalf of a third-party owner. When is the owner using the jet and when is the aircraft available for charter?

As a key part of the broker liaison process, we want brokers to physically see and touch the aircraft, internally and externally, particularly if we are introducing a new type to the country (as was the case, for example, when we became the first charter operator of the Cessna Citation Mustang in 2008). We will therefore invite brokers to acquaint themselves fully with the new jet on arrival in the UK, which might involve bespoke meetings or perhaps a collective ‘open day’.

Now is also the time to put public relations teams into top gear. Customers need to be made aware of the opportunities opened up by the new aircraft. Ensure journalists have all the input they need, crafting the information you distribute according to the market being addressed. Remember that aviation industry journalists might, for example, be most interested in technical jet specifications, whereas regional newspapers will want to know how the aircraft will help local business.

If introducing a new type to a strong economy, a launch party can be an effective means of educating the industry, from brokers to the media. We have held these parties with great – and very enjoyable! – success in the past for the Mustang and the Cessna Citation Excel. Not that one day’s work will be sufficient; from press releases to carefully-selected direct client marketing, you should be looking to heavily promote your aircraft type to achieve market awareness for at least 18 months.

In your eagerness to communicate with brokers, potential customers and the media, don’t forget to communicate with your own team too. Email all your staff with the key operational, pricing and availability information that you are also sharing with brokers. The personal service that is so vital to executive aviation means that your company representatives, handling customer enquiries and bookings, should be well-informed and able to ‘challenge the brief’. Does this new aircraft, for example, actually meet the customer’s requirements better than the aircraft the customer is requesting?

The arrival of the aircraft at home base will, in the case of a new type, allow you to put training into practice. Pilot and maintenance training, as discussed in the last article, should have been organised and carried out in advance to coincide with the arrival of the aircraft. As well as the appropriate simulator courses, your chosen ‘ferry pilots’ will also have gathered valuable hands-on experience flying the jet back to the UK from Kansas or Brazil.

With the aircraft safely home in the UK, introduce the interior accessories. In many ways, it is the attention to detail, from toiletries and DVDs to the best linens, that could set your operation apart from your competitors and make an impression in the mind of a new, but soon-to-be-loyal, customer. Don’t relent on those interior checks, either. Regular refurbishment of the cabin interior and commercial accessories will help ensure that even long-serving aircraft continue to offer the latest in passenger luxury. Sharp and clean interiors are essential, not optional.

Interior diversity is a selling point too. At LEA, for example, not only do we offer seven types of business jet but also, because of our hybrid mix of owned and managed aircraft, we have a range of customised interiors meeting each owner’s specifications. We can therefore meet charter customer requirements and desires to a very specific degree.

Executed well, taking delivery of a new aircraft – and introducing that aircraft to the market – should be one of the most exciting experiences in aviation. If you plan hard and work hard, it will be. If you just try to ‘wing it’ though, you’ll be flying into delivery hell.

click Article written by Patrick Margetson-Rushmore
Originally published in P1

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