The new CEO of Jet Linx says plans call for tripling fleet size and a more streamlined organizational structure.
The new CEO of Jet Linx Aviation, Brent Wouters, says the jet card and management company is fine-tuning staffing levels, readying for an ambitious growth plan that will see it expand beyond its current 20 base locations and increase revenues significantly.
Amid reports of layoffs, in an exclusive interview with Private Jet Card Comparisons, Wouters says he expects to reduce headcount by less than 10% from its high of around 580 team members earlier this year.
About 20 positions were eliminated in June before he started, and there were eight more positions that were eliminated in recent weeks.
Further reductions are to be completed in the next several months.
The former Cirrus Aircraft boss took the helm at the end of July when longtime CEO Jamie Walker, son of founder Denny Walker, moved to Chairman.
Jet Linx is the 8th-largest U.S. private jet operator based on charter and fractional flight hours, according to Argus TraqPak.
Of the changes, Wouters says, “It’s not rocket science. It’s the normal process when a new CEO comes in. Jet Linx was operating as a profitable family business with no debt. It continues to be a profitable business. However, our ownership is private equity, so we want to be leaner and more efficient. It’s about the organizational structure and processes.”
Wouters reiterated he aims to grow the company from several hundred million dollars to $1 billion.
Plans call for tripling the fleet to over 300 aircraft, increasing fleet utilization, and increasing flight revenue.
“We have a very strong balance sheet. We have $30 million in the bank. There is no debt. We have a very strong business model. We have a great brand and credit to the Jet Linx team that created it. So, we’re in very good shape. The challenge is we don’t make as much money as we should,” Wouters says.
Increased focus on the bottom line and private equity control is compatible with a long-term vision.
“We wouldn’t want to make decisions that are short-term focused…A lot of companies make that mistake. Companies in our industry require big investments, so you’re thinking long-term. We will keep thinking long-term…We want to look far down the runway. We are thinking of 10-year cycles. That’s the way I think. I expect to be here for 10 years,” Wouters says.
Early changes to drive growth will come from improved internal communications to aircraft owners and jet card customers with accurate information faster.
Over 30% of private aviation users cite declining customer service as a reason for changing providers, third after increased prices and flight delays.
“What our clients respond to is genuine caring behavior that delivers the value they want. They don’t want fluff. They want our team to be genuine, cut to the chase, tell them what they want to know (and), and deliver a world-class experience,” says Wouters.
Plans call for every customer to have an employee at Jet Linx with responsibility for their relationship.
“I want a person inside Jet Linx to own each relationship for the life of that customer. Why? Because this is the relationship business. If we don’t communicate well, we start to hand the customer off; we don’t talk to them for a while, we’ve lost the relationship, they’re going to go somewhere else,” Wouters says.
For the time being, the new CEO’s plan includes three key points.
“We need to increase the utilization of our fleet from about 65% today to 75%. We need to triple the size of our fleet, easy to say…triple the size of our fleet to about 300 airplanes. And if we can increase the revenue aircraft owners get 15 to 20%, we’re at a billion dollars,” he said.
Wouters says while he is not opposed to acquisitions. However, he prefers organic growth.
He says, “Acquisitions are hard, hard to come to an agreement on valuations with owners, hard to integrate them.”
Fleet growth will come via casting a wider net for aircraft management.
While in the past, Jet Linx focused on managing aircraft located at or near its bases, the company now plans to pitch for aircraft nationally.
“I’ve told our aircraft management sales team, go where the airplane is; go where the client lives. That’s what we’re going to do,” Wouters said.
On the jet card side, Jet Linx has 1,500 active jet card customers.
He wants to make the program more transparent with fewer complicated rules.
Wouters also sees opportunities to sell “tangential transportation type services” such as helicopter transfers in places like New York.
“You’re flying to Teterboro. The last thing you want to do in my world is get in a car for two hours,” he says.
However, it is unsure what additional services customers want to buy.
Wouters notes, “When I think about our Elevated Lifestyle luxury partnerships the way it is today, the hotel programs and all of these other ancillary benefits, the engagement is very low. Conceptually, I love it…Either we don’t have the right product, or we don’t communicate it right, or we don’t sell it right…So we’ve got to figure that out.”
In terms of attracting new customers, Wouters says, “If we do our job right, people recognize it, and they come to us. And so, if we do some of the things that I talked about, our phones start to ring. This is the secret to growing.”