Robert Coleman is general manager for Vertis Aviation's US office. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, he is spreading the word about the aircraft charter broker and building its business throughout the Americas
How did you come to aviation?
I can’t recall any time when I didn’t want to be in aviation. I was a frequent flyer in my early years and hit the 100,000 air mile mark around seven years old. I studied aviation in higher education, earned my private pilot's licence, and have been in sales and marketing roles from “the tip to the tail” on a variety of aircraft types and throughout the industry. I sold my first charter flight nearly a decade ago and haven’t looked back – only up!
What does your average working week consist of?
I’m not sure that average and aviation can be used in the same sentence. There is so much to do as we inform the American market about Vertis Aviation. My time is spent working with existing clients, while constantly developing a base of new customers. Introducing the Vertis charter management programme to the region keeps me busy too. The concept is attractive to operators as it means they can focus on their operations while we market their aircraft for charter. It’s a new methodology for many but it means aircraft owners, the operators, and the customers all benefit. Networking also takes up quite a bit of my time. I’m always looking to attend social functions where I can potentially meet new customers, as well as industry events which help me to stay up to date with news and ahead of trends. With my travel schedule I am, of course, still collecting those air miles.
What Is the biggest challenge for you each week?
The most difficult part of the role is helping a prospective customer realise that every broker does not provide the same type and level of service. Many buyers believe that chartering is simply paying a price for a flight on a private plane. It is so much more than that. At Vertis we seek to anticipate what the passengers will need before they even realise there is a need. I strive to have a professional, yet personal, relationship with each of my clients. This enables me to understand their priorities and preferences in order to serve them promptly and properly.
What gives you greatest satisfaction at work?
It is always satisfying when a prospect converts to a patron. The opening of the office in Boston, Massachusetts coupled with our international network gives us the ability to provide any aircraft, at any time and anywhere. It is very satisfying explaining to customers that there is no trip too short or long and no group too small or large for us to accommodate. Managing multiple leg trips, like world music tours or business road shows, and/or co-ordinating complex commercial charters with hundreds (or thousands) of passengers is daunting and daring but the stress, strain, and sleepless nights are soon forgotten when the customer is satisfied.
As a charter broker do you get any down time and what do you do with it?
You mean there is down time in an industry that is always “up”? All kidding aside, I believe everyone should strive to do what they love. In addition to my aviation career, I am also an associate minister at a Boston-based church that has a global reaching ministry. That keeps me busy. When I do take time for rest and relaxation my favourite way to travel is by cruise ship.
How do you see the future of charter with the advent of the digital platforms?
Every passenger has varying requirements. Sometimes the need may be a no-frills point-to-point service that is easily sought and bought through a digital platform, while in other cases the mission may require accessing difficult airspace and/or airports on a set schedule with short notice, which is ultimately impossible without the expertise of a well-versed team. Online and software-based tools have helped to broaden the market of potential private aviation customers by improving accessibility and information. However, the proof of success for these platforms is not in the number of participants but rather in how problems are solved. With so many moving parts, literally, there will be times when issues arise. It is in these moments when there is no substitute for the responsiveness of a person. In short – computers are critical but people still (and will) have a place and purpose in the industry.
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