Leveraging a Charter Operator’s Untapped Marketing Department – The Flight Crew
This is a post by guest author Carol Martin of Sit ‘n’ Stay Global, LLC. Carol was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her expertise as a flight attendant with a specialization in animal safety and care as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
The first thing you realize when you get into the business of selling seats on private jets; whether it’s as a charter operator selling seats on somebody else’s aircraft, or a fractional company appealing to frequent clients; is this: you lose those seats if you don’t sell them. The elegant word for this is "marketing", and you may be a small operation which handles this all from one chair, or you might have an entire department dedicated to this purpose. You place ads, drop press releases, tweet, post and study SEO to make your website pop. After careful market analysis you price your perishable product just right so you can seal the deal. You sell the seat, you are satisfied and feel you have done a successful job. Wrong.
The work is just now starting; to make that client a customer for life, to keep them coming back and create true loyalty. For that to happen, you need to tap into your most visible marketing team… your Flight Crew. You are already paying them, so why not make sure they are helping your cause? The client may make the initial selection based on price, but that is soon forgotten. On the day of the trip, it is the total experience they will remember and either be impressed with or find lackluster. The Flight Crew spends more time and forms a more personal bond with your client than anyone else in the company. If your client falls in love with the experience your Flight Crew provides, they will fall in love with your company and continue to book with you. Let’s take a look at a few ways Flight Crews can help make the flight experience fantastic.
A comprehensive client profile is a terrific way to communicate to your client that you are interested in their personal preferences, and this is in no way going to resemble a commercial flight. The more detailed the profile, the better. Simply indicate that they need only fill out the parts that matter to them so they don’t find it burdensome. Be sure to share this information with the person who plans the in-flight catering and on-board amenities so the aircraft you provide matches their preferences. Small details matter, like having cashews on board instead of almonds. Get this information to the Flight Crew so they can follow the client preferences and show you care about the details they took the time to provide.
2. First Impressions
It’s true; you only get one chance to make a first impression. If you are a contract flight crewmember (like myself) this applies directly to you, and if you are a charter company, make sure your employees get this memo. Shine your shoes before every flight. No clip-on ties (ever see a Principal wear a clip-on?), and it is better to own one fabulous suit than four from a discount store. Dress shirts should always be dry-cleaned for a professional look (it shows) and have them "folded." They’re easier to pack this way and the creases show a strict attention to detail. Dress as if you belong on a private jet, not as if you are there as a gawker. Silently communicate confidence, pride and that you have earned your place at the top of your game. Show a readiness to assist with luggage and coats and help everyone settle rather than finish those last few texts. Introduce yourself and learn everyone’s name as they present themselves. Use these names as you make them feel welcome and introduce them to your area of expertise.
3. Cabin Pressure
Sometimes crewmembers have preconceptions of what a pilot or a flight attendant is. They may have had an argument with their partner or issues with their parents growing up for that matter. Whatever those issues are, they should be left at the bottom of the steps and a unified front should board the flight. This has so many benefits; the most obvious is that it makes the flight a lot more enjoyable for the crew if they can all just flow along together. Another important point to realize is that the passengers can pick up on tension in the cabin, even if you manage to keep unpleasant discussions out of earshot (and don’t underestimate how far your voice travels in that small space), and it makes them uncomfortable. Even worse than just being uncomfortable, passengers can begin to wonder if the crew has the ability to work together if something goes wrong or if they might be distracted and miss something. Remember, flights can be long and uneventful… the only live entertainment is the crew, so be aware that all of your moves are being watched.
4. Well-Oiled Machine
It’s easy to get busy trying to get a flight out with perfect timing. A lot starts to happen fast, and a lot of people are rushing around trying to make this miracle happen. As Flight Crews, we represent the company and form an image of that company in the eyes of the Line Service people and all ground personnel who make this dance work. Taking a moment to look each person in the eye who brings you something, give him or her a smile and learn his or her name will go a long way. These are people working hard just like we are. The main difference is that at the end of the day we often get a really cool bonus, maybe putting our feet up in Bali or such. They worked hard all day and went home to more chores and a brew, so it’s easy for them to think we have a glamorous life even though we often want to be back home too. We are very fortunate, so remember to treat those who make us look good well. We cannot do it without them.
5. Top Flight
If you are a contract Flight Attendant, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get extra culinary, etiquette and cabin management training in addition to emergency training. If you employ flight attendants, this training is a wise investment. Clients fly along satisfied for a long time with "the usual." Finally they fly with a Flight Attendant who presents fruit and cheese as an artful display with a beautifully folded napkin and cognac in a warmed glass in a quiet discreet manner and they are impressed. Same elements, same time frame, no words exchanged, just different presentation. Who do you think they want to go back and fly with? They want an experience that makes them feel special, like they are really getting an extraordinary value.
6. Final Impressions
It’s not over until that limo pulls away with the folks. Continue to serve and assist until your client leaves. Confirm transportation arrangements within an hour of landing to ensure smooth transitions at the FBO. Upon landing, resist the urge to begin paperwork or shoot out a few quick texts. They call this work for a reason… go ahead and do the job all of the way through. Provide hot towels and mints to freshen up and bottled water for their ride to show you care about their continued comfort. A small parting gift, such as travel slippers or spa amenities, makes a lasting impression, particularly when accompanied by a handwritten invitation to return. Always do a sweep of the aircraft before the limo leaves; when the client forgets something it leaves a bad feeling about the end of the trip even if that was not your fault.
So you see, selling a seat on a private jet is just the beginning. You have an enormous asset that you send out with your customer for hours and hours that can make or break what they think of your company and your plane in the end. This kind of team marketing approach is a win-win for all involved. The more the flight crew strives to make a great impression and provide a superb travel experience, the more likely it is that the client will book that aircraft again. The owner will want that crew again because they will either be personally requested or the owner will know they are the ones that made the magic happen. Everyone is working a little more and our client is receiving the kind of special elite care they deserve. The circle is complete!
If you have any questions about this article or need assistance finding a flight attendant for an upcoming trip, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.