It’s often easy to forget both McDonald’s and Starbucks started with a single location. And, of course, everyone knows the story of Apple and HP, each beginning from garages in Silicon Valley.
Likewise, in private aviation, not everything that gets big starts big, particularly in the brokerage area where there are few barriers to entry, knowledge not necessarily being one of them. However, if you look at Barbara Corcoran, even if you don’t own product, but serve as a middle man, it’s still entirely possible to reach lofty heights.
It’s hard to tell if two-year-old Naples, Florida-based Outlier Jets will someday become a well-known brand in the jet card and on-demand private jet space, however, it’s off to a good start.
Its founder and CEO Michael Farley says Outlier has amassed nearly 200 jet card customers, and while he doesn’t disclose revenue, if one does the math and figures typical deposit around $150,000, the numbers impute revenues north of $25 million.
Outlier currently has more than a dozen employees with sales offices in Boston, Los Angeles, and Naples, where Farley is based. It has 24/7 customer service with the team split between the east and west coasts. Plans are to open a sales office in Dallas in the next couple of months.
Despite his executive position, while riding to lunch with Farley, he is still busy taking calls from customers. Each customer gets their own dedicated account rep, however, many of those folks who Farley brought in still like talking to the boss, and he’s happy with that.
“It’s about the personal touch,” he says. For one customer who was moving into a new house, a member of the team went to the local supermarket to help stock groceries. And while you can book your flights via text, email, or phone, there is no app, and Farley says customers like it that way.
“Their trip is important and flying privately is not inexpensive. You can better understand why they are flying when they call, so we really like talking to them,” he says.
Having cut his teeth at Sentient Jet before moving to Icon Aircraft, Farley says he was able to learn from one of the jet card segment’s biggest and most successful players.
While some jet card buyers prefer operators over a broker, Farley makes a compelling case that the interests of the broker is often better aligned with customers than operators.
Most customers sign up with operator jet cards because they want to fly on that operator’s fleet. However, Farley believes it’s not unusual for operators to off-fleet customers to accommodate a broker who may be booking a plane for multiple days.
“If you are an operator, you have this multi-million-dollar asset. When it’s sitting there, you are losing money. Your jet card customer wants to book a one-hour flight where you have to reposition the plane. At the same time, a broker wants that same plane for a three-day trip with six legs. Who do you think gets the aircraft,” he asks.
Outlier doesn’t have a chief safety officer, but Farley says it is focused on a select group of operators with five to 10 private jets in their fleet. While many brokers market access to 5,000 or 10,000 aircraft, Farley says there are about 285 private jets the company is regularly using for its card customers.
For each operator, Outlier does an extensive background check. They use Wyvern, Argus, and IS-BAO as a beginning as opposed to a means to an end, Farley says.
“For the operators we use, we are constantly monitoring turnover, both pilots and management. Our team has the experience, so we have known the operators we work with for five or 10 years. Turnover is a red flag,” he says.
He says Outlier also reviews aircraft history and also how long each has been with an operator. Aircraft that bounce frequently between management companies can be a sign the owner is unwilling to keep interior upgraded, for example.
For prospects who don’t want to go with a start-up jet card broker, Farley says, he understands where they are coming from, and simply asks for permission to circle back in six months or a year.
“We want to grow, but our goal is not to grow. We want to keep delivering and build our business based on repeat business and referrals,” he says.
By the way, regarding the name, Outlier refers to those people who are dedicated to their craft and because of that determination and dedication excel and become outliers.
You may begin to see more of Outlier from a marketing perspective. Farley says he is planning to participate with partners in key market events as well as ramp up digital advertising.
If you look at the Outlier jet card program, it will remind you of Sentient’s previous structure with pre- and post-year 2000 private jets across the four core categories – light, midsize, super-midsize, and large-cabin jets.
There is 12 minutes of taxi time, included in the Daily Minimums, which are 60, 78, 120, and 120 minutes, respectively.
Pets are guaranteed and all flights get a $300 catering credits, with large-cabin jets getting $900, however, Farley says that is the small print.
In actuality, members order off a menu, and he says only once has it charged a customer, who was ordering large amounts of catering every flight. “I think they were doing their grocery shopping,” he says. Otherwise, Outlier generally picks up the entire tab.
There are no interchange fees and you can upgrade or downgrade based on published prices for each trip.
There are only 18 peak days and peak day surcharge is just 5%. Qualifying roundtrips get a discount of 10%, and deicing is included.
You can also access multiple aircraft on the same day at published rates with guaranteed availability.
In terms of the call-out, the lead time is 10 hours non-peak and a slim 96 hours on peak days, while the cancelation window is 24 hours and 96 hours, both in the best of class category, particularly for brokers.
Maybe someday Outlier Jets will become IBM or Microsoft, but today, it’s still a relatively new company. Farley’s jet card program definitely picks on many Sentient Jet best in class features, which is not surprising since that’s where he cut his teeth.
Moving to guarantee WiFi on its Elite cards, particularly in lights jets, and with a 60-minute taxi time inclusive daily minimum, FET-included at $5,200 per hour makes Outlier a price leader. Focusing on a small group of operators it knows well and trusts might mitigate aircraft sourcing concerns.
We would love to see the ability to add escrow funds for 25-hour card buyers without banking fees and perhaps 90 minute daily minimums for super-midsize aircraft, however, on paper, Outlier has one of the industry’s best thought out programs and very attractive rates.