Prime Trip Support is headquartered in Dubai and, as Chief Operating Officer Ryan Frankhouser explains, operates globally
A centre for commercial, private and VIP aviation, Dubai boasts more than its fair share of business aviation companies. Among them, Prime Trip Support offers a plethora of services, including flight planning, weather, ground handling, permits, navigation and regulatory services, travel and accommodation services, contract fuel, charter and security. None of them are unique to Prime, however, so how does it retain a loyal customer base and attract new clients?
For starters, says Prime COO Ryan Frankhouser, “We are a global company with offices around the world, serving all seven continents. Our global headquarters is in Dubai, UAE and our America’s HQ in Houston, Texas. We believe Prime operates with the highest degree of professionalism and support, which we affectionately call ‘the Prime Advantage’. Our exceptional service delivery, operational experience, efficiency and transparent billing are hallmarks of our success and the driving force behind our exceptional growth. And contrary to popular belief, most of the major service providers have a symbiotic relationship; we work together to advance the industry in many ways, including awareness, transparency, and improvements in regulatory efficiency.”
Frankhouser’s description of Prime as a global company is particularly significant. “We believe that we need to be where our clients need to be. When they select Prime as their international service partner, they make us an extension of their flight department. We carefully study each client profile, their requests and their needs to ensure we can deliver the highest-quality support regardless of the destination. Whether they are travelling to Montreal or Ouagadougou, our clients can rest assured they are in capable hands.
“Prime looks proactively at its clients’ needs, geopolitical events, and industry trends and patterns to determine where we need to focus for the future. We do our best to make sure we have assets on the ground in every feasible location, but no company can be on the ground at the 10,000+ airports where our clients operate. Where we don’t have a physical presence or we don’t send our dedicated airport supervisors, we rely on our Prime Select Network to deliver the Prime experience.
“Prime Select vendors are partners who have consistently demonstrated top-notch quality and service in their respective areas of operation. The process for becoming a Prime Select vendor is long and thorough. During our due diligence process we consider several factors, including compliance, the provider’s track record, their breadth of service, reputation, commitment to safety, financial stability, client feedback and policies.
“Managing the Prime Select Network is a never-ending task. All Prime Select partners are continuously audited for performance and adherence to our quality-of-service metrics. When clients choose to work with Prime, it is our duty to deliver exceptional quality and service so, regardless of the location, between our global assets and our Prime Select partner network, we provide quality, safe and efficient services in all corners of the globe.”
Prime’s customers expect the ultimate in service, but how does a company define and deliver that ‘ultimate’? Frankhouser explains: “Customer service is the cornerstone of success for any service provider; without it you really don’t have much to offer. Prime was built on the central tenet of providing solutions to the most complex logistical challenges while delivering an exceptional customer experience. Delivering on this promise starts with our team, the people who wear the Prime brand. In fact, the largest part of our initial and recurrent training programmes for new team members is customer service.
“The customer experience is at the forefront of everything we do. It’s achieved through a rigorous routine of proactive planning, constant oversight, gathering of feedback, empowerment and training. In addition to being nimble and proactive, we listen to our clients’ concerns and are committed to the rapid resolution of anything that stands in the way of their expectations. Our Prime Select partners are held to the same high standards.”
On the other hand, younger customers are used to accessing services through their devices. How does Prime satisfy the requirements of these new travellers without losing sight of service excellence? “Over the past few years, the global community has entered a phase of real-time processing and gratification,” Frankhouser agrees. “Speed, accuracy and convenience are necessities and Prime is aware that its client base is no exception – they want what they want, when they want it. It’s true for information, service delivery and myriad other items. There are many things that technology and automation can achieve, but they don’t replace the human element – yet. At Prime, we believe in equipping our team with tools and technologies that improve our processes, our response times and the usability of our services. Our internal toolsets are state-of-the-art and are constantly evolving.
“In turn, we believe there is a market for self-service, including the real-time status of data. Our customers have access to up-to-date information on their trips from their computers, smartphones and tablets. They can view the status of their requests, make changes and provide feedback electronically. We’re constantly looking for ways to provide more information and flexibility to our clients and a lot of this will be delivered through their devices.
“The most important thing to realise is those devices are not autonomous and we make sure there is always a team of dedicated professionals and subject matter experts behind the scenes because even the best aviation app won’t be able to set up services, obtain permits, re-order fuel, or book lodging arrangements during an inflight diversion. We believe in using technologies to help us work better, faster and smarter. Clients who want to be self-sufficient can use our automated tools, while those clients who prefer telephone calls and emails with a live human can have that comfort.”
As the technologies available to Prime’s clients change, so too do the technologies and capabilities of the aircraft on which they fly. Frankhouser chooses the future promise of supersonic flight as an example. “It will allow our clients to travel more efficiently, making more of their time. It will also increase the need for customised inflight and ground support services, including flight planning and handling, respectively.”
He also notes advances in software and communications infrastructure. “A few years ago, most inflight communication was limited to the 2.4kbps connection speed offered by ACARS. Now, a typical mid-to-large aircraft provides high-speed internet access globally. These technologies are extremely useful for passengers, flight crews and service providers. In addition to general connectivity, an inflight request, diversion, or weather update can be handled in real time, with rich data, graphics and instant communication. Ten years ago, a simple monotone weather graphic showing convective activity would take 10-12 minutes to reach the flight deck, often reaching it after the aircraft had passed the system entirely. Now it is instantaneous.
“As a solution provider in the aviation marketspace, Prime proactively looks for solutions that will keep it at the forefront of change. For example, we already offer several sustainable aviation fuel and carbon offsetting options, and we stand ready to assist with the flight planning changes that will be brought forth by supersonic flight, as well as technologies that promote self-service trip support.”
Considering the future and sustainability, Frankhouser agrees that attracting young people into the industry is key to its continued viability. That is a difficult proposition against a backdrop of flight shaming that might discourage them, so what can Prime do to prepare tomorrow’s leaders?
“We believe it requires a concerted effort from all of us who call business aviation our profession and passion,” he says. “Let’s be clear, when we talk about business aviation we are talking about the unseen and often misunderstood industry that moves the world’s industries. Among the general populace, however, we are perceived as carbon-emitters or toys for the ultra-wealthy, when those misconceptions are not true. Business aviation creates jobs – thousands of them – and drives growth, infrastructure development and innovation.
“These misconceptions could not come at a worse time, either. The pilot shortage has forced airlines and other carriers to open their chequebooks in an attempt to woo prospective new pilots to their side of the fence. It is creating significant challenges with employee retention and the burden of skyrocketing salaries. Prime believes that the industry’s leaders all have a role to play in educating people on the true value and performance of business aviation and in the development of the next generation of business aviation professionals. We actively participate in industry forums, advocacy groups and initiatives to change the current narrative about business aviation. We also seek out new talent, showing the next generation the value and reward of working in such an important industry. We do our best to equip these future leaders with appropriate information about the industry and its many benefits.
“Business aviation remains a niche market, however, far from the beams of the national media spotlight. Changing the narrative and the general public’s perception will take time, but we are committed to doing it, whether through corporate communications, our actions, industry involvement, or one-on-one discussions with those less familiar with the industry.”
It is a typically bold approach from a company which, Frankhouser states, is equipped to handle any mission, whether it is a trip supporting an annual shareholders’ conference or the movement of a president. “The work is divided between our two 24/7 operations centres,” he says, “but we operate as a unified, well-disciplined machine, relying on the strengths and knowledge of our experts around the globe.”