For most of us, there are few things more exhilarating than hopping on a plane and flying somewhere exotic. And with private jet travel gaining popularity in South Florida — a 22% rise in the past year alone, to be exact — Miami’s finest are traveling with more luxuries than ever.
Just last week (on a Challenger 601, no less), we had the fabulous opportunity to meet Adam Twidell, CEO of the UK-based PrivateFly, to learn about his company, why private jets are the only way to fly, and of course, why the Magic City is hopping on the trend. Here’s what he had to say, below:
When did you discover your passion for flying? “No one in my family was a pilot. I didn’t think you could just be a pilot! I was studying at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Air Force was hosting a program where they would teach you to fly for two years for free, with no commitment to join. I was taking electrical engineering classes and wanted something more fun to do, so I signed up for the program. By the end of the two years, I just loved flying, so I became a pilot in the Royal Air Force.”
Why do people love private jet travel? “Mainly, flexibility, privacy on board, schedule and time — you depart at your time, when you’re ready. On a commercial flight, you’re fixed by their roots. Private jets can also get to a lot more airports than commercial planes, so they can bring people closer to their destinations. For me, I’ve always thought the holiday starts as soon as you get to the airport. It’s a completely different feeling at a Fixed-Base Operator than at hectic airport, where you’re rushing and worried about baggage.”
What inspired you to start PrivateFly? When I left the Royal Air Force, most people went into commercial flying, like with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. Then I discovered that you could be a private jet pilot, and it seemed fantastic. I joined NetJets, a great private air company, and I started speaking to customers there and noticed how unhappy they were; they were always so paranoid they were paying too much. One day, I was flying passengers from London to Nice, and we were flying back with an empty plane, only to go back later to pick them up. I met a crew of an identical plane flying the exact same route, but in opposite directions, and it made me think: If these two companies had known that they were both flying the same track, could they have worked together and worked it out? That’s where the internet came in — I talked to people in the industry and they told me no one would ever book a private jet online. I’m glad I didn’t listen!”
What sets PrivateFly apart from the competition? “When customers come to us with a plane or helicopter inquiry, we immediately tell them what it should cost. Then, the request goes out to market and aircraft operators quote against each other — the customers watch all this going on, and can choose who they want to fly with. They can do all this online or on an app, or if they prefer, they can also do it with our live customer service team that’s around for 24 hours a day. We always know where our aircraft are because our technology actually integrates with the software they use. The difference with PrivateFly is all in its service, attention and technology. We’re doing what no one else is doing, and in the most affordable way possible.”
How far in advance does someone need to book a plane? “Our record for getting someone airborne from inquiry is 42 minutes — and we even had a car waiting for him when he landed. Most reservations, however, are made 2-3 days in advance.”
Why do you think Miami is such a big market for private jet travel? “Because of its location, Miami is a hub where you can fly to markets in all directions. It even has South American access, which is emerging. There’s also a lot of wealth in Miami and it’s so close to great destinations for holiday trips. East, you have the Caribbean, and you’re only 40 minutes from Cuba. You can cover the whole of the United States from Miami. Outside of that, there are so many languages spoken here, and it’s a great place in terms of both lifestyle and weather. Who wouldn’t want to be here?”