Talk from the Top - meet the private jet boss used to high expectations
Tell the truth - you're beginning to dread your annual summer getaway.
In fact the very thought of the amount you’ve had to shell out for your economy ticket, the inevitable argument over your luggage allowance, the packed airport, the long journey with the kids and the bad-tempered queues for passport control is enough to make you wince.
It doesn’t have to be this way - you could just hire your own private jet. What’s that? Not an option? Oh. Well allow 7DAYS to take you through the VIP terminal, up the fold-down steps and into the luxurious world of private air travel.
We’ve got the perfect host - Shane O’Hare, president and CEO of Royal Jet, the Abu Dhabi-based luxury flight firm.
His staff have a simple goal, he says, “making sure from the very beginning of the journey until they get home, the VIP is well looked after”.
If ‘chicken or fish’ is as bespoke as your usual in-flight experience gets, you may be about feel some potent pangs of jealousy. The largest part of the firm’s business is providing bespoke charter flights that meet the demanding standards of VIPs, be
they members of the region’s royal families or high-powered business leaders.
O'Hare says his firm has to be aware of the “small nuances” that such flyers expect as part of the service - anything from the ability to watch live TV in the air, to serving food from their favourite restaurant.
Such luxuries may be out of the reach of you or I, but there are plenty willing to pay for such pleasures - the firm says last year it saw a 226 per cent increase in net profit. Not bad when high fuel prices and other testing conditions ensured most aviation bosses spent 2011 emitting a whine that would put an Airbus to shame.
“We don’t whinge about what is going on around the world, we just get on and do it,” says O’Hare. “That’s business. Everyone knows that the aviation business is subject to so many external factors often beyond its control, whether it be the weather or fuel issues or turmoil around the world.”
While private aviation has some fundamentals in common with commercial carriers, in others it is a different game altogether.
“An airline is completely programmed, knows what it is doing to the minute six months in advance,” the Royal Jet boss explains. “Whereas the private airline business is the complete opposite. When a member of our crew gets their roster at the beginning of the month, it is a blank sheet of paper.”
Dealing with the whims of the super-rich is not without its challenges. A last-minute VIP charter can mean having to source an aircraft, a crew, secure a landing slot at a remote airport, lay on the right catering and sort out the appropriate visas - sometimes in a matter of hours.
Then there’s those times when an on-time departure is a matter of life and death. O’Hare says medical evacuations are a growing part of Royal Jet’s business, and one which sees its business jets transformed into “flying hospitals” with their own medical staff. In its most challenging mission to date, in March the firm evacuated more than 30 injured Chinese workers following a deadly blast at an arms depot in the Republic of Congo.“I am very proud of the work that my crew and my medical team did on that particular journey,” says O’Hare.
LIVE AND LEARN
Name: SHANE o’HARE
Firm: ROYAL JET
Position: PRESIDENT & CEO
Q WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
A It was as a trainee manager at hotel in Melbourne called the Old Melbourne Hotel. It was a short stint, and then I became a trainee manager at Qantas for six years.
Q WHO HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR CAREER?
A My father - he was an entrepreneur and a highly successful entrepreneur. I am also lucky to
have some very good mentors, like Etihad boss James Hogan and our fantastic chairman Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan. We meet him every week and it is his vision of excellence that is driven all the way through to Royal Jet on a daily basis.
Q WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST DAY OF YOUR CAREER?
A Just about every day at Royal Jet, we have a great business.
Q HOW DO YOU RELAX?
A I’m love jogging and Abu Dhabi is a great place for jogging, even in summer. Wherever I go, it is the best thing you can do when you travel. All you need is a pair of sneakers and shorts and away you go - it’s a great way to see the world.
Q WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN THIS BUSINESS?
A This is a maturing business, I think there are a lot of opportunities for people who wish to develop a specific career in private aviation. It needs good professionals who are focused on being future leaders.