Gliding through the clouds and looking at the matrix of houses and highways below from the window of an aircraft never gets old, no matter how well-travelled you are. In the past year, there has been a real longing for that feeling of stepping on board a plane and magically being transported to a new world in a matter of hours. It was a similar allure that pulled Nick Davis into the industry. “For me, the fascination of how and why people used business aviation was what attracted me” says the founder and chief executive of Instajet, the community that’s redefining the world of private air travel. “Soon after leaving the military in the early 90s, I was asked to fly an aircraft across to Amsterdam for a one-hour meeting then fly straight back – it was quicker than getting on a train to London from the South Coast. I was hooked then.”
Instajet’s mission is to engage with all parts of the private air travel community—from the passengers who have easy visibility of aircraft categories and guaranteed prices for their specific travel dates via the Instajet app; to those who are tasked with researching and providing recommendations to UHNW individuals like EAs, PAs, and concierge teams; and finally to the fleet operators themselves, who are able to unlock new customer acquisition channels with the help of Instajet’s aviation experts. A loyalty programme with referral benefits also helps to strengthen the quality and growth of the community. The Sybarite’s lifestyle expert Ina Yulo Stuve speaks to Davis about his experience launching his own business and the importance of building trust within an industry where relationships are worth more than their weight in gold.
Why was it important for you to build a community around Instajet?
The people that use business aircraft move in relatively small circles and there are not too many degrees of separation between their common interests, be it skiing, yachts, golf and the wealth distribution that cascades out of them to inner and outer circle support staff needed to be aligned and transparent. The EA/PAs, chauffeurs, yacht captains are all trusted aides to the UHNW community so we want to involve them based on a trusted transparent relationship.
What were some of the growing pains you felt with launching Instajet and how did you overcome them?
Industry concerns around financial protection of clients’ money was something that was going to be complex and difficult to resolve and it has taken us many months to resolve. Luckily, in teaming up with Currency Cloud—an FCA-regulated e-money platform—we have found an incredible solution, but it’s taken a lot of hard work!
In your opinion, what is the most common misconception about private air travel?
The most common misconception is that business jets are only used by rock stars and the mega wealthy, when in real terms they are incredible time machines that generate and support millions of jobs around the world. The ability for business execs to work in complete security while they travel and maintain a stable family life is something that airline schedules will never allow to happen.
Have you seen a shift in your typical client profile over the past few years?
Yes, the clients are getting younger and are astute to the environmental impacts that flying generates, so the focus on carbon offsetting or planting trees like we do is vitally important whilst they travel.
As a pilot yourself, if given the chance to fly any aircraft on your bucket list, which would it be?
Building and maintaining relationships is an important part of your job. Do you have any advice on how to do this successfully?
This industry is rife with people trying to extract exorbitant amounts of money out of UHNW people, whether it be for on-demand chartering or selling them jet cards, but the opaqueness and greed is unpalatable. Building trust with the passengers and the aircraft operators requires transparency and honesty; everybody is allowed to make a commercial profit, do it respectfully and word of mouth will build success.
Do you have any favourite celebrity stories?
Clients trust our discretion—what happens on private jets stays on private jets!
How has the pandemic affected your business and the industry as a whole?
The pandemic has created an unprecedented level of demand that the world’s business jet operators have struggled to contend with. Due to the horrendous stories of unruly behaviour on airlines and the decimation of airline schedules, the business aviation industry globally has seen a rapid influx of new clients which is great for everyone and creates thousands of new jobs.
Do you have a dream travel destination?
I love New Zealand, especially the south island, and I hope and pray that it’s not too long before the country opens up again.