Air Charter Service restarts European capped-rate jet card; continues measured growth

Air Charter Service restarts European capped-rate jet card; continues measured growth.

By Doug Gollan, July 12, 2023

Broker Air Charter Service is bringing back its guaranteed capped-rate jet card in Europe after an 18-month hiatus

Air Charter Service is adding back its guaranteed availability, capped rate jet card product in Europe as it plans to continue its global expansion with measured, profitable growth.

At the same time, executives say the company’s local market strategy means they can create more personal relationships with customers and operators.

European Jet Cards

Air Charter Service’s capped rate membership offering in Europe has been on hiatus since early last year.

However, Jet Card Director Charlie Rogers tells Private Jet Card Comparisons the flight provider is finalizing updated rates and terms.

He expects the relaunch in the next month.

ACS currently offers its market pricing jet card globally.

Air Charter Service leadership team
Air Charter Service Chairman and Founder Chris Leach (center) discusses upcoming expansion plans with CEO Justin Bowman (left) and Chief Marketing Officer James Leach during a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Kingston, England.

In the U.S., it has capped, fixed, and market-rate programs.

Group Private Jet Director Andy Christie says availability is no longer an issue, hence the return of its guaranteed, capped-rate product in Europe.

“When you offer a guaranteed product, you want to make sure you can meet those guarantees,” he says.

Luxury travel services

Separately, Air Charter Service plans to expand its luxury travel services, says Ben Stevenson, CEO of the Travel & Concierge group.

“If we capture 100% of a client’s private jet spend, that may represent just 10% of their overall travel spend,” he notes.

The in-house travel group can arrange everything from transfers to hotel reservations and luxury experiences.

Air Charter Service
Air Charter Service has over 160 private jet charter brokers in more than 30 offices globally. Here, brokers in its Kingston, England headquarters consult with clients.

Stevenson says keeping with the company’s DNA, growth will be gradual.

ACS was founded in 1990 by Chris Leach in his basement.

The travel services will target existing private jet customers, not the general public.

Jet card customers can use their funds to book travel, including airline tickets, making it a seamless experience.

Stevenson says clients often have colleagues and friends traveling via the airlines to meet them and are looking for a single travel solution.

Think Global, Act Local

During a visit to its headquarters in Kingston, outside London, Founder and Chairman Chris Leach says ACS will continue its global moves.

While sales spiked during Covid due to a surge in cargo charter business, he says the company will record its third-consecutive year of billion-dollar revenues.

Long-term plans call for doubling its office locations from over 30 to more than 70 with a similar mix of private jet, group charter, cargo charter, and courier.

Leach says the privately-held company continues to be profitable despite turmoil in the industry, and expansion is based on staying in the black.

There are also no plans to jump into the M&A market or for an IPO.

Air Charter Service came within a day of going public in 2008 before the Financial Crisis roiled the markets.

Leach decided with dropping valuations to stay private.

He granted all employees internal shares, leading to three of its highest growth years until the Covid surge.

Group Marketing Director James Leach says hiring and training talent is the main constraint.

New brokers go through a month-long training program in Kingston and cannot handle customers for two to five months when they start.

CEO Justin Bowman says the average tenure among its 160 brokers is around 10 years, with most of its management starting as trainees.

ACS’s model of having local offices has enabled it to expand its meet-and-greet services for jet card customers and generate stronger relationships with local operators.

“It’s a long tail industry, so by having a global network of local offices, we can be more than just a voice on the phone with operators and customers,” James Leach says.

It gives it a unique proposition when clients travel to another region.

“We have the contacts with the operators where they are going, so we know the good, reliable ones,” he says.

Air Charter Service will generate around $400 million in private jet charter brokerage sales in its 2023 financial year, making it one of the industry’s biggest players and the most global broker.

A Different Take on Technology

While others tout digital on-demand charter booking, ACS executives say their investments in technology are behind-the-scenes, designed to make brokers more efficient.

“When you look at what is required to offer instant booking pricing, and for it to be more than a guess, the information you would need from operators simply isn’t available in real-time,” says the marketing boss.

He says the old-fashioned way works out better for customers.

Leach adds that when ACS goes to operators, they negotiate better pricing than is published online, passing savings along to their customers.

While operators can offer their fleets, he says industry databases have only around 30% of the aircraft available on the charter market, meaning getting the right airplane at the right price remains based on phone calls and text messages.

ACS brokers source the aircraft for their customers. Some providers have sourcing departments.

Its approach means brokers are more connected to the total experience, he says.

“You can put preferences in a profile, but the same person who sells you is the same person who books your trips and sources your aircraft, so there is a deep understanding and high level of accountability, he adds.

Related Articles

Visit DG Amazing Experiences

Find the perfect solution for your private aviation needs

Make the right decision

If you want a program-by-program comparison of more than 250 products from more than 50 companies covering 65 points of differentiation and over 40,000 data points.