“Everybody’s interested in flying private,” says Henry Thompson, founder and CEO of jet charter company Charter BuNo. He estimates that about 1% of the total population can afford the luxury. But, says Henry, “What’s happening in our market is that the barriers of the entry are starting to lower, and it’s starting to become more affordable for some people.”
After nearly a decade in the private jet charter world, Henry’s clientele “ranges from C-level executives to Middle Eastern royalty.”
Charter BuNo’s goal is to make it easier for people who want to fly private to connect with operators. “Years ago, if you wanted a private jet you had to pick up a phonebook or call a local operator or buy a fractional ownership for a few million dollars.” Charter BuNo makes the process easier. The company, which started in 2013 and raised nearly $200,000 from private equity in its first six months, right now is focused on optimizing its technology. “Our next milestone is to launch our private jet charter marketplace and our app which will connect private jet charter customers directly with operators.”
The private jet charter industry is very competitive. “It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth,” jokes Henry. “But we want to create something special. We’re coming out with something that’s driven toward the end user” — meaning both the flier and the operator. In an industry currently dominated by charter brokers, Charter BuNo is shifting the paradigm to allow operators and fliers to reach one another without a middleman.
Henry isn’t afraid to shake things up. Before leaving his previous role at Key Air, a charter and aircraft management company, he experimented with new marketing strategies to help ramp up demand. He tripled his outreach through email campaigns to grow flight requests significantly. Once, when a plane hadn’t been booked for several days, he experimented with introducing pricing transparency — a controversial move in an industry accustomed to opacity, but one that worked immediately. “It was a no-brainer — we had an asset that was losing us money. Within four hours the flight sold and the plane was scheduled to come back.”
Now, Henry is bringing his creativity and hunger to his own business. In addition to its online marketplace, Charter BuNo is exploring additional lines of business — including commercial flights through partners like Etihad and a shuttle from New Jersey to Nantucket for those who are interested in a private jet experience at a lower price point. At this point, one of the biggest challenges is “balancing the demand of private jets with the operators that provide them.” At this early stage, the company is paying close attention to customer feedback as it solidifies its business plan for the short- and long-term.
Henry is enthusiastic about the company’s prospects. “I genuinely have a passion for aviation and what I do. I love the business and the people I get to do business with.”