The thrill of the executive jet chase

Published: 23 Oct 2017

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With her pilot husband, and inspired by working in a media sector being transformed by the internet, Carol Cork seized the opportunity to launch an online portal for booking aircraft: the thriving PrivateFly.

How did you get into the aviation industry?

I was in the media for 14 years, working closely with the travel and aviation industries, which were both seeing a fundamental shift online at the time. I co-founded PrivateFly in 2008 alongside my husband Adam, who was working as a pilot in the business aviation sector and had been an RAF pilot. Together we saw an opportunity to build a private jet-booking platform that would tap into the technology affecting the wider travel industry.

Describe your career so far

My career before aviation was working in sales and marketing for brands including Glamour, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, Elle and others. Since PrivateFly launched in 2008, I’ve helped shape the international sales and marketing strategies for PrivateFly, raised investment funding for the business and immersed myself in the wonderful world of business aviation.

What is PrivateFly?

PrivateFly is a global booking service for private charter flights, combining a leading-edge technology platform with a team of aviation experts.

What does your job entail?

As marketing director, I head up the overall marketing strategy for PrivateFly, including our digital marketing, brand marketing and communications activity. I also sit on our board of directors, helping to steer our growth strategy and development. It’s incredibly varied, so on different days I might be overseeing a new video project, dissecting our latest web analytics, pitching for a business contract or visiting our US team based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

What are the key challenges facing the online business jet marketplace industry?

Getting the recipe right. We need to create strong user experiences online, with personalisation that reflects the bespoke nature of business aviation, and provide 24/7 service excellence offline. Another challenge is recruitment – online businesses employ a wide spectrum of skills and experience, from tech architects to digital marketers and sales consultants. So as the online marketplace segment continues to take share and expand the market, it needs the right mix of existing industry expertise and fresh talent to continue to innovate.

What trends have you seen of late in the charter market?

Business aviation is growing again in the USA and Europe, with charter flight growth outstripping private flights. Digital disruption is a key driver, with the biggest charter growth being driven by online platforms, offering innovation on the supply side in terms of how charter availability is consolidated. Booking speed is also a key factor, with 29% of our charter flights booking to fly within 24h. The fastest we had went from enquiry to airborne in just 31 min (in the first quarter of this year). We have also seen a 29% increase in spend per charter booking in the first three months of the year. That is another encouraging sign of returning confidence to the market.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thrill of the chase! When we started PrivateFly – selling our house to fund the development – it was a challenging prospect to find, persuade and convert private jet customers. We were told that private jet customers wouldn’t search on Google, or book online. So it’s been brilliant to disrupt some of those industry misconceptions, and keep our 50% annual growth rate going.

What are the plans for PrivateFly?

Continued expansion in both Europe and the USA. We’ve seen exciting growth in the North American market with limited investment to date. US clients and industry have really embraced PrivateFly’s business model, so I’m excited about the potential to ramp this up with the next phase of expansion that we’re planning. We are also investing in our technology platform over the coming year, rolling out new innovations that will really enhance the experience for both aircraft operators and customers.

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