How did you get into the aviation industry? I worked in the media for 14 years, during which time I worked closely with the travel and aviation industries, which were both seeing a fundamental shift online at the time. I co-founded PrivateFly in 2008 alongside my husband Adam, who was working as a pilot in the business aviation sector and was previously a RAF pilot. Together we saw an untapped opportunity to build a private jet booking platform that would tap in to the effect technology was having on the wider travel industry.
Tell us about your career so far? My career before aviation was working in sales and marketing for brands including Glamour, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, Elle and others. Since PrivateFly launched in 2008, I've helped shape the international sales and marketing strategies for PrivateFly, raised investment funding for the business and immersed myself in the wonderful world of business aviation.
What is PrivateFly? PrivateFly is a global booking service for private charter flights, combining a leading-edge technology platform with a team of aviation experts.
What does your job entail? As marketing director, I head up the overall marketing strategy for PrivateFly, including our digital marketing, brand marketing and communications activity. I also sit on our board of directors, helping to steer PrivateFly's growth strategy and development. It's incredibly varied, so on different days I might be overseeing a new video project, analysing our latest web analytics, pitching for a new business contract or visiting our US team, which is based in Fort Lauderdale.
What are the key challenges facing the online business jet marketplace industry? I think a key challenge is getting the recipe right. We need to create strong user experiences online, with personalisation that reflects the bespoke nature of business aviation, and provide 24/7 service excellence offline. That comes from really understanding the needs of a diverse and demanding client base, using data and insight, and learning as you grow. Another ongoing challenge is recruitment – online businesses employ a wide spectrum of skills and experience, from tech architects to digital marketers and sales consultants. So as the online marketplace segment continues to take share and expand the market, it needs the right mix of existing industry expertise and fresh talent to continue to innovate.
Are there any noticeable trends in the charter market ? Business aviation is growing again in both US and Europe (with charter flight growth outstripping private flights). Digital disruption is a key driver, with the biggest charter growth being driven by online platforms, offering innovation on the supply side in terms of how charter availability is consolidated. Booking speed is also a key factor – with 29% of our charter flights booking to fly within 24 hours. The fastest we had went from enquiry to airborne in just 31 minutes (in Q1 this year). And an increasing +29% spend per charter booking in the first three months of the year has been another encouraging sign of returning confidence to the market.
What do you enjoy most about your job? The thrill of the chase! When we started PrivateFly (selling our house to fund the development), it was a challenging prospect to find, persuade and convert private jet customers. We were told at the time that private jet customers won't search on Google, or book private jet flights online. So it's been brilliant to disrupt some of those industry misconceptions, and keep our +50% annual growth rate going (at the same time as being a profitable business model). As PrivateFly has grown in scale, we're no longer a start-up, but we've maintained an entrepreneurial and agile culture, which I love. Plus I get to work with a really inspiring and energising team of people.
The least? The juggling. It's 24h a day, in an industry that never sleeps, so sometimes the balance between work and family life blurs too much. But as the company has grown with some fantastic senior leadership, I've been able to step back (and sleep) a bit more.
What are the plans for PrivateFly going forward? Continued expansion in both Europe and the US. We've seen exciting growth in the North American market with limited investment to date. US clients and industry have really embraced PrivateFly's business model, so I'm excited about the potential to ramp this up with the next phase of expansion that we're planning. We are also investing in our technology platform over the coming year, rolling out new innovations that will really enhance the experience for both aircraft operators and customers.