Making private jet charter seamless, transparent and accessible
As founder of Victor and now CEO of Alyssum, what is your exact status and what does that represent in terms of workload?
“These are extremely busy but exciting times. By overseeing Alyssum Group’s long-term strategy, we are dictating a new phase of consolidation in our industry – this will offer many benefits for us and for the wider private aviation community. I also continue to oversee Victor as I lead Alyssum brand. Victor will immediately benefit from the recent developments, expanding upon the strategic partnership it announced with fellow Alyssum Group subsidiary RocketRoute last November.”
When you brought Victor to the market, you were among the first to bring digital innovation to the business aviation sector. Today, how is Victor developing?
“Victor continues to deliver growth and innovation, typified by our appearance in the higher echelons of the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 for three years in a row now. Last year, total value of bookings was up 53%, the value of an average trip was up 40% and online requests rose by 120%. In turn, Victor’s app was involved in 60% of total bookings and 18% of charters were from first-time fliers. Our combination of high-tech and high-touch customer service is making private jet charter more seamless, more transparent and more accessible.
The private aviation industry remains fragmented, dominated by jet brokers who often fail to share specific details of the aircraft being chartered or their profit margin. It still surprises me that this behaviour persists and that customers have no control over their travel and what value they’re actually getting. Opaque service and pricing has led to increased frustration among flyers. It’s why Victor’s clear and effective user proposition, something we are always looking to further enhance, is proving more and more popular.”
Tell us a little more about the separate investment vehicle Alyssum.
“Alyssum Group will seek robust corporate and private equity investment as it pursues a long-term acquisitive strategy within the general and business aviation sector. The acquisition of RocketRoute last month – joining Victor as a wholly-owned Alyssum subsidiary – is the start of our journey to build and acquire other businesses that help us create a connected ecosystem for stakeholders right across the charter industry.”
What do you mean by developing a connected ecosystem?
“We want to create a digital marketplace that will automate the charter industry’s entire value chain – a seamless platform that transparently connects and serves all within private aviation. This includes customers, charter brokers, operators and other service providers, such as those in flight-planning and aviation fuel supply. By helping consolidate our industry we can raise business standards across it, turbo-charge innovation and boost growth.”
Tell us about BP Ventures and BBA Aviation investments, and what it means for Victor.
“This recent $18m co-investment from BP Ventures, BBA Aviation and existing shareholders follows a BP Ventures-led investment round of $20m last September and has allowed us to restructure in such a way that we can better support customers for the long-term and totally transform the industry. Alyssum Group will drive its overarching strategy forward whilst providing Victor and RocketRoute with a strong foundation from which to accelerate their own respective, innovative business plans.
For BP Ventures, the creation of Alyssum Group reinforces its pledge to advance early-stage businesses whose technologies complement the wider BP business. BBA Aviation, meanwhile, gains new opportunity to explore inventive digital ways to better serve passengers, operators and aircraft owners, as well as develop wider partnerships across the sector.”
How is the partnership with RocketRoute working out? What projects do you have in common that hopefully you can talk about?
“Victor’s new relationship with RocketRoute under the Alyssum Group umbrella is the perfect progression from the strategic agreement signed last year. By utilising RocketRoute’s dynamic industry services and data, Victor will immediately be enabled to deliver an even higher, more intelligent level of charter service for customers and operator clients. Collaboration will also massively enhance the efficiency of business operations for Victor’s suppliers, ensuring a level of progress and development unseen before in private aviation.”
How are Millennials, a generation that makes heavy use of digital technology, impacting the market?
“Affluent millennials expect seamless, high-quality service compatible with the busy, digitally enabled lives they lead. As such they are forcing the private aviation industry, many parts of which still rely on offline processes, to embrace technology and automation around charter booking. Beyond that, charter businesses have to re-consider the way that they engage this emerging audience – through the medium of social media, for example. They also need to think hard about what it is they’re offering. Charter cannot simply be presented as a product, an A to B. It needs to represent a personalised experience; something Victor strives for, not least through its various Art of Curated Travel packages.”
There seems to be a shift from ownership to access, how is Victor’s Apps servicing that market?
“Absolutely. Industry data suggests that nearly two thirds of European jet movements were charters last year versus those attributed to owned private aircraft. Charter offers greater flexibility and cost effectiveness, which is attractive to UHNWIs and large corporate companies in the current economic climate. The charter market is continuing to grow, whilst jet manufacture remains fairly subdued.
Victor’s tech-enabled omni-channel platform, and transparent, on-demand business model, strengthen the case further for charter – we are making private travel quicker, clearer, easier. We are giving customers greater control over when, where and how they fly. The Victor app is a perfect example for how we help our growing number of customers compare, shortlist and tailor chosen travel experiences to suit their needs at any given time. The quality and consistency of the Victor experience is such that they feel like they own the aircraft.”
Do you agree that there is a need for VVIP airliners, as Airbus and Boeing seem to be marking a pause? What about supersonic business jets? Is there a demand for this type of aircraft, and how will Victor address that market?
“There is a real need for VVIP airliners, both for purchasers and charterers. At the recent Corporate Jet Investor conference in London both Airbus and Boeing were bullish about future sales. The issue, however, is that there are few slots in current production lines. Elsewhere, there will be demand for supersonic business jets but everything will depend on whether or not owners wish to offset their costs by chartering their aircraft out in the first instance.”
How do you see the future of business aviation?
“We can expect to see change through industry consolidation, and greater collaboration. The industry needs more of a joined-up approach to ensure customers come first, receiving better service and value.
It’s incredible that so many charter providers still confuse the need to deliver high-end customer service with the need to withhold certain aircraft and pricing information from flyers. Other industries, including the luxury hotel market for example, have digitized access to their offering, encouraging transparency and booking efficiency, and ultimately driving up sales.
I believe the semi-automation of jet charter will be a big focus for many in 2018. Using information from data analysis to drive truly intuitive digital booking for flyers, and combining that with world-class human-to-human customer service is the industry behaviour that will revolutionise private travel. My team and I are certainly focused on automating things further – everything needs to point towards a quicker, clearer, more regulated service for customers.”