How did you get into this business?

I started about 15 years ago at the age of 20 as an operations manager with air taxi and medevac operator AirMed at Oxford. I'd studied as an accountant, but realised after six months that it was very boring. I moved to [charter broker] Hunt & Palmer and then helped set up Aircraft Zone, which is now Ocean Sky. Four years ago, I teamed up with two colleagues and launched Oxygen 4.

What is Oxygen 4 best at?

We don't have 1,000 clients. We're a boutique service and concentrate on looking after a core of clients very well. It's all about the personal touch. Very often we deal directly with the end user himself and sometimes we will be asked to provide a certain type of wine and food from a particular restaurant served at an exact time. We liken what we do to a tailor's service. You can buy a suit off the peg, or have it made exactly as you want it.

How is the market at the moment?

I'd be lying if I said everything is like it was before. But we are holding our own very nicely. Our ultra-high net worth customers are not particularly affected, even if their businesses are being hit. If you have $8 billion in the bank, a global downturn is a bad day at the office.

Mark Green - Oxygen4

How do you market yourselves?

The number one thing we sell is trust. We market ourselves on reputation. Some of our clients might be spending $80,000 travelling to a meeting where they are going to do a $1 billion deal, so cost is not so much the question. Very often new customers ring us saying we have been recommended by someone else. We do very little advertising.

Is it easy to establish relationships with operators?

We spend as much time with our operators as we do with our clients, making sure we have a very good relationship. Our intention is not to be aggressive with a big stick to knock a few extra pounds off them on price. We come from an operator background so we know how they work. We look after them. Once a year we have a party for all our operators in a London nightclub and they come from as far afield as Los Angeles, Turkey and Russia. We have about 20 or 30 that we use regularly, with the bulk of the aircraft heavy jets from [Bombardier] Challenger 300s upwards to Boeing and Airbus business jets. Some of our clients are very specific, and demand a specific type or won't fly on an aircraft over three years old, for example.

Where did the name come from?

Didn't want to call ourselves Executive this or Charter that. We just wanted a name that was different and memorable and decided we liked Oxygen. It's in the air everywhere and you depend on it. There's a bit of a pun on the "4" as in "Oxygen for"

What sort of people do you want to recruit?

We have a small team of just 13, including the three of us, so it's a very hands-on business where we want to get to know our clients on a personal level. What our staff do need is a personality. We don't want robots. They have to remember the details of the client's last flight and all sorts of personal details. There are huge cultural differences too. When a Russian client calls, they have different requirements for their flights to an LA client, or a sheikh or a UK client, who all have to be handled differently.

Any famous clients we can mention?

Sadly, we've signed a lot of NDAs [non-disclosure agreements], but what I can say is that there are a lot of old rockers making a comeback. It's nice to start your career touring the country in a battered Transit van and end up in a business jet.

Source: Flight International