Nicholas Air aims to excel in an industry where excellence abounds. Founder Nicholas Correnti explains
The tag line of Nicholas Air’s logo promises ‘Innovative Private Air Travel’. In an era where private air travel is booming, charter apps proliferating and operators struggling to meet demand, how is that ‘innovation’ expressed? Company founder Nicholas Correnti explains: “We do things differently and as private flyers’ priorities have changed in recent years, they have been able to find a true home and partner in our programme.”
Most recently, he says, the Covid pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of owning and operating a fleet. Oxford, Mississippi-based Nicholas Air is unusual in owning the aircraft it offers through its Jet Card programme and Correnti believes this is key to its success. “From an operational control standpoint, it means you can prepare the cabin a certain way, communicate directly with the flightline, and have an immediate impact on the flight experience for your customer. Many of our members came to us for that kind of personal touch, among other reasons.”
The company has owned aircraft since its origins in 1997, and Correnti emphasises: “By owning the aircraft, you control all the variables of that trip. Managing availability is then something that we are entirely responsible for, and we will continue to grow the fleet to match the demand we see, but the demand goes away if you aren’t exceeding your customers’ expectations every day.
“Our growth is entirely dependent on the success rate we have with our current members. Referrals from our existing group constitute over 80% of our new programmes and for us to achieve that, our reputation for service and reliability must be exceptional. So, in some respects, the success of our business indicates that we are already serving our customer base at a very high level and the team is committed to continuing that trend. For us, that equates to fleet and programme expansion and while we continue to welcome new members to our company, we will back that up with more new aircraft.”
At the core of its business, Nicholas Air offers three flexible Jet Card programmes: one offering pre-purchased hours, plus two deposit-based options. “The latter are similar to a banking debit card,” Correnti explains. “Our members fund a programme and then draw off that account as they fly. It’s very simple for the customer and allows them the opportunity to lock in rates over a long period of time, without the hassle of the dynamic pricing structures usually found in jet charter.”
A range of investment levels is available. Could that lead new customers to over-invest which, after all, would benefit the company? Not surprisingly, given the Nicholas Air ethos, Correnti reacts strongly to the suggestion. “The level of experience in our sales group means those new to our programme have trusted advisors throughout the process if they need them. In reality, prospective members often come to us incredibly knowledgeable about our programme and aircraft. Many have owned airplanes before, so they speak at a higher level about these jets and understanding the costs, while others have flown with us several times when invited by their friends or colleagues.
“Our team does a wonderful job, listening to what the customer wants and matching the programme up to that. There is no sense trying to force someone into a product – that is just not part of our service culture. The potential for a short-term money grab is not good business. It is much better to be consultative, listen to their needs, and help that customer understand why a specific programme might fit them best.”
And once a member has signed up, Correnti says Nicholas Air has “…the tech tools in place for those that want them because you do have to shift with the times some, but we very much believe in personal contact with our clientele. Our members enjoy a friendly voice on the phone and our native Southern hospitality impacts on their experience with us. There are some things technology just cannot do in a truly world-class service organisation.”
Management and more
For people looking to “alleviate the amount of stress associated with owning planes”, Nicholas Air offers aircraft management. “They want the aircraft but have little to no desire to run their own flight department, and we can help them,” Correnti enthuses. “There is a lot of complexity in operating airplanes and we can be a true partner for an owner by leveraging our relationships and industry contacts. In keeping their airplane to Nicholas Air’s standards, we also ensure its value stays high and that it’s in a great position when it comes to quality and mechanical reliability.”
Pilots are an important element in the reliability and availability of the company’s owned aircraft fleet and it comes as no surprise that they are all full-time, salaried and exclusive to the Nicholas Air flightline. “When a member greets a Nicholas Air pilot, they know right away that he or she is not only an incredible aviator, but has been through extensive customer service and member services training programmes, in stark contrast to the ‘get on the plane and turn left’ mentality sometimes seen in the business.
“At the same time, we have a great team on the maintenance and detailing side, ensuring the aircraft stay ready for our members and continue to deliver the high standard we’ve established with our fleet. Throughout the company, the team is committed to providing the best product available in the industry.”
The team is very special and Nicholas Air works hard to retain it. Correnti says: “While most of the world was in disarray these past couple years, we did everything the same, with no pay reductions, furloughs or layoffs. When you offer stability like that to someone and their family you attract people of real quality to your organisation. Working here is incredibly rewarding, but it takes a level of commitment and a desire to serve that not many people have anymore. Those qualities are what sets the Nicholas Air team, and the service it delivers, apart from the rest of the private aviation world.”