Private, Efficient Travel with JetSuite
Jetting off on a spur-of-the-moment vacation is always a good idea. And it becomes even better when you’re sitting comfortably in leather, sipping on a cocktail with three of your favorite friends, and chatting with the pilot – in your very own private jet.
JetSuite is one of the newest up-and-coming private jet companies that offer luxury travel at a price that doesn’t break the bank. We sit down with founder Alex Wilcox about the company and what you can expect when you climb aboard.
What is your professional background?
I’ve had my pilot license since I was 16 and I always knew I wanted to travel. I was an intern for Southwest Airlines in college, worked as an airplane dispatcher, worked for Virgin Atlantic in Customer Service in Miami. I transferred to their headquarters to run their upper class products where I learned all about luxury travel.
While at Virgin, I met David Neeleman who was trying to pitch Richard Branson with what turned into JetBlue. I helped David build JetBlue from day one and I was one of the company’s first employees. Six years later, I had the opportunity to move to India to start King Fisher Airlines for liquor baron Vijay Mallya, which is now today’s largest private airline there. When I came back to the states, I was looking for the next big thing and learned about the Embraer Phenom 100. I thought that the jet would be an amazing opportunity for a new business model for private jets, and in 2008, I created JetSuite.
What was the inspiration behind JetSuite?
What I learned from Southwest Airlines was how to operate efficiently like a low cost carrier. The biggest lesson I learned was to operate one kind of aircraft so that all of your pilots and mechanics can work on your entire fleet. At Virgin Atlantic, I learned about luxury and offering the best amenities to passengers. We had to innovate luxury to get people more than what they expected and beat what your competitors can offer.
At JetBlue, we learned how to provide a better product at a lower cost. I tried to leverage all of my past experiences into something new with the Embraer Phenom 100, which despite its small size, is perfectly suited to serve 70 percent of the private jet market, which fly less than 2,000 miles and have fewer than five passengers on board.
What is the type of clientele you’re gearing these services to?
There are the traditional users who love us because they’re getting the same experience but at the fraction of cost. We want to grow the private jet market tremendously to also include business people who currently fly commercially to cover their territories. In a Phenom, you could reach two to three cities in one day. There are some locations that business people need to reach, but commercial planes don’t have access to. Our jets could reach up to four locations if passengers wanted to.
We also cater to leisure and weekend travelers, like even bachelorette parties who can afford the option of flying private. There’s no one demographic; it’s all about who has $1000 to spare and who needs to get somewhere in the fastest way possible.
How is JetSuite different from other private jet services?
We are, if you will, the Southwest Airlines of private jets. We display our brand on the outside of our jets and we can fly up to 2.5 hours at a time. What makes us luxurious is the time you same traveling. We’re not about the fussiness when you fly. We’re like every man’s private jet – everything you need and nothing you don’t want.
Our jets have a taller and wider cabin than others, are far more efficient, and burn less gas than others. On board, passengers are sitting in a BMW-designed interior with more head and shoulder space than other jets. There’s XM Radio in every seat, free drinks and snacks, and a flushing lavatory.
We offer some of the best trained pilots with some clocking in more than 6,000 hours each; some of our guys have more than 24,000 hours of flight time. We offer jet travel at a fraction of the cost and with no compromises.
No one can touch our prices. Passengers can pay by the day, or by the flight if they’re just going to one destination.
Tell me about the SuiteKey Membership. What is required to become a member?
Unlike most of our competitors, there is no upfront commitment to become a member. For people that want a good deal and who fly frequently, they can use our discounting program, where if you put money down, we give you a bonus in flight credits. We give passengers an extra 13 percent for every $200,000 down. For instance, you’ll get an extra $26,000 in flight credits for each $200,000 you put down and the increments go down from there. It’s a very popular program with no monthly or yearly fees.
Members also get higher access to the fleet and priority over other non-member clients.
How will the company expand its destinations?
World denomination is in our sights. We’re in conversations with representatives in Australia and India to offer our members access to their fleets when they’re abroad. Two-thirds of the population lives on the east coast so there’s no doubt we’ll open up shop there.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.