Stratajet heads for the Middle East
A private jet online booking company is about to launch in the Middle East. But, before it does, the company's founder will be undertaking a unique recce. Dave Calderwood reports.
Booking a private jet using an app on a smartphone is commonplace these days but is the customer seeing the full and final price and is the operator getting a good deal as well?
That’s the dilemma Jonny Nicol sought to remedy when he founded Stratajet five years ago and started the long and complex process of building an all-encompassing search and pricing engine.
Stratajet launched in Europe in 2015, in the US in November 2016 at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) event, and is planning to launch in the Middle East in the second quarter of this year.
And, just as he did with the European and US launches, Nicol plans to fly around the region in his trusty Piper PA31 Navajo piston twin, talking to operators, checking credentials and demonstrating his company’s unique and powerful technology.
The Middle East recce will be code-named, just like the previous trips, reflecting Nicol’s previous career as a British Army officer... and also his sense of fun. Europe was ‘Operation Long Reach’, the US ‘Operation Mayflower’ and the Middle East will be ‘Operation Scimitar’.
“For the US launch, we flew the PA31 across the Atlantic and then on a 200-hour trip around the country,” said Nicol. “We had 486 meetings in 196 different cities in 104 business days. It was a great ad for business aviation – and we signed up 99.5% of the operators.”
These personal, face-to-face meetings are not only an effective way to promote Stratajet to operators. They also allowed Nicol to see the way the operators worked, their facilities, meet their staff and make sure they were reliable and safe.
“Operators have to have been in operation for at least two years with an impeccable safety record,” said Nicol. “All operators and aircraft that we work with are checked for compliance to operate charter flights and includes inspection of air operator certificates (AOCs) and insurance. Operators holding AOCs have to meet high safety, training and process requirements. Many of the operators we work with have further safety accreditation from Wyvern and BACA (private aviation audit companies).”
The difference between Nicol’s company and other app-based booking platforms is that Stratajet considers every element of pricing a private jet for each individual flight.
“As well as providing the cost of the aircraft itself, Stratajet is able to remove the complicated pricing of the additional 14 sets of fees* outside of the operators' control,” said Nicol. “We have a continually updated database of over 460,000 lines of data that enable the system to accurately calculate fees such as landing, parking, terminal navigation, noise surcharges, fire support upgrade fees, airways charges, tax, etc.
“No other platform has collected this data and written the necessary algorithms to allow for its system to price up of all of these fees and provide an accurate final cost, which is then instantly bookable, with no manual input from the operator.”
This is why Stratajet took five years to develop, and why it has 14 full-time researchers constantly checking data to make sure it’s up to date. “We guarantee that if a detail is wrong, we’ll pay the difference,” said Nicol.
The latest development is an offer to operators to help them build a branded website and mobile app to facilitate real-time pricing and take bookings from new and existing customers. Operators will also benefit from Stratajet’s adaptive empty leg search algorithms, which provide improved margins.
“This new solution, alongside Stratajet’s cutting-edge proprietary pricing and search engine, will allow operators and partners to accurately provide their customers with availability and costs of aircraft,” said Nicol.
“With this information available in real-time at customers’ fingertips, flights are then instantly bookable online, without the need for operators to perform manual quotes on any requests received. Having access to this software for free will allow operators to dramatically streamline their operations, removing inefficiency across the industry.”