Up In the Air - Not with George Clooney but with Avantair
By Huma Gruaz
President & CEO
As a marketing/PR professional, there is no greater high than to be mesmerized by a product, service or a company you represent. Today was one those days, when I got to experience first-hand the product of our client Avantair, a leading private aircraft company in the light jet category that offers fractional shares and flight hour time cards. I must say, today, I was indeed mesmerized.
To be honest, I have never been a big fan of flying in small private aircraft. At Alpaytac, we always fly commercial and the few times that I flew private before founding the firm, the experience left me a little unsettled. The flights were always turbulent and the space in the aircraft felt claustrophobic.
When we started representing Avantair, I knew that the day would come when I would get to experience their unique aircraft. While I knew it was my job to fully understand the product I represent by trying it, I must admit I was a bit nervous. The last memory of a private aircraft experience I had was a very bumpy ride in a small airplane, where I felt that I was on a never-ending rollercoaster ride with my stomach turned upside down.
I now own my agency and have a portfolio of wonderful clients including highly recognized national brands such as Avantair. Last week, my job was to accompany Avantair founder and CEO Steve Santo for a key interview we secured with the top national business newspaper. We are blessed to have some really cool clients – most of them are entrepreneurs who took big risks to follow their dreams and Steve is one of them. A former attorney, Steve left law to found Avantair, in a challenging industry that has very high barriers to entry as there are large costs to get started and immediate losses until operation reaches full efficiency. In a matter of seven years, Steve managed to turn Avantair into the fastest-growing private aircraft company in the US.
Steve is not only an inspirational leader revered by his employees, but also has a disarming personality that charms anyone around him immediately. Despite the fact that he is the CEO of one of the fastest-growing companies in an extremely competitive industry with a very high profile clientele, he has a boy-next-door modesty about him that gives him the ability to connect with any media he is introduced to. You cannot help but like the guy so much that you want to do really well for him and for the company he has built from scratch.
When I meet leaders and CEOs who are not only wonderful to be around, but also are highly respected and loved by their employees, I know that the company is destined for good things -- especially if their business model is one that is strategically positioned to capture market share from its competitors. What I mean is that there are several key pieces that need to be in place for a company to succeed and great leadership, competitive unique product and a smart business model are the top three elements. Avantair has these three in place.
When I stepped into Avantair’s Piaggio aircraft, I was impressed by the spacious and luxurious interior that allowed me to stand up. While Avantair’s aircraft is in the light jet category, its interior feels like a mid-size jet because of the unique futuristic design of the Piaggio aircraft. As Steve started his interview with the reporter, we began to take off. Once we were air-born, all my nervousness was replaced by a simple state of awe. I was in awe of the smoothness of the ride. I was in awe of how quiet the cabin was. I was in awe of the fact that I felt totally safe and as comfortable as I feel in a Tempurpedic bed. Although we climbed to quite a high altitude, the flight felt as smooth as silk.
The steadiness and quietness of the aircraft made it seem like we had never left the ground. The gorgeous visuals of the blue skies and clouds may as well have been rotating images of a flight simulator cabin. But we were actually flying – and flying quite fast. The Avantair aircraft is the fastest turboprop manufactured, reaching a speed of 450 mph.
What I also love about the Avantair aircraft is that they burn 40 percent less fuel than their competitors. Add to this, a great operational model, their pricing is 30 to 40 percent less than competitors. If you are flying five or more executives, Avantair’s pricing becomes highly competitive to that of business class pricing of commercial airlines. Because of what Avantair has brought into the market, long gone are the days of perceiving private air travel as pure extravagance.
During the interview, Steve shared with us that he was bit by the bug when he flew in one of his competitor’s jets. He said that he realized that there was a major gap in the market for value-conscious business travelers who want to travel private, but do not want to pay the premium prices of super expensive private aircraft companies. With this spirit, Avantair was born.
From all the discussions we have had with Avantair’s executives, I knew very well that their Piaggio aircraft is considered to be the roomiest, quietest and most fuel efficient aircraft around. Still, it is something else to actually experience these attributes. No words, descriptions or adjectives can do justice to the experience I had flying in this magnificent, futuristic machine.
As I said my goodbyes to my client and started walking away, realizing how much I love what I do, I kept thinking how proud I am to represent such a tremendous company.