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INTERVIEW: Creating a specialism in VIP charter

Elliot Bottomley learned about business aviation at an artist management agency. Now, he runs UK broker Aviation Charter, providing transport for music, entertainment and corporate sector clients

How did you get involved in aviation – is this what you trained to do?

My career began at an artist management agency in London where I worked for a decade, supporting some of the world’s most renowned DJs. One of my responsibilities was liaising with charter brokers for our artists' complex travel arrangements. I was lucky to join a few charters, and my taste for business aviation developed. I then went to work for an established aircraft charter company as their commercial manager, and learned the operational aspects of charter while developing a "music and entertainment" department. I soon realised the full potential of the sector, so with a business plan in hand, I took the plunge and created Artist Charter, which is today known as Aviation Charter, offering a services to a wider client base.

What does your working week look like?

As a busy expanding company, each week is different. Activity is seasonal – mid-summer is spent dealing with enquiries and managing charters, while in winter my time is mostly focused on business development.

We are fortunate to be the go-to charter provider for many of our clients, and regularly meet them to discuss their needs. Strong and long relationships are key as we build our business based on transparency, honesty and trust.

We receive a wide variety of enquiries ranging from single-leg business trips to multi-leg music tours. One current tour I’m working on spans four months, so intensive research is required to match the right aircraft with the clients’ requirements.

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Artist Charter

What is your favourite part of your role?

Working with two very different but equally exciting markets – business and entertainment – keeps me on my toes. One thing that unites both sectors is the relationship-based approach, and it’s this that I really enjoy implementing. The most satisfaction comes when charters are undertaken successfully. Sometimes lead times are long between initial enquiry and the journey, so it’s great when all goes smoothly.

We’re big on charter safety and due diligence, so I enjoy making sure we stick to the processes that keep us operating with integrity. We work in a competitive market, but our offering is different – much more personal than most – and it’s this aspect of the business which is most enjoyable.

What do you find most challenging?

Conveying the value a charter broker delivers can sometimes be a challenge, so educating clients about the processes is something we regularly do. While we want to win business, we also want to do right by our clients. Brokers undertake the same job in the eyes of the client, but we all work differently and offer varying service levels. That is part of the reason we attained Argus certification, as it gives clients the confidence that appropriate due diligence has been undertaken. Added value is a difficult subject for clients simply looking for best price, but we embrace and enjoy the challenge.

In a digital world, where does the broker sit?

Many charter customers enjoy the convenience of using online charter services, particularly those chartering regularly. The choice delivered by private aviation can be bewildering, so the information and human touch provided by brokers is welcomed. It is a high-value service, so customers appreciate guidance, reassurance and problem solving when the unexpected happens.

What are the biggest challenges for business aviation charter today?

Regulations might normally be seen as a restraint to industry development, yet the charter broker industry is largely unregulated. The challenge is to regulate the industry concisely, effectively and fairly, in order to stop the growth of the "grey" charter market.

I am continually surprised to hear just how common these illegal charters are. I believe the industry and aviation bodies must continue working together to influence change.

If you would like to feature in Working Week, or you know someone who does, email your pitch to kate.sarsfield@flightglobal.com

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