Flying privately is certainly a luxurious proposition. Destination Luxury had the unique opportunity to interview the Chief Operating Officer of Privé Jets, Andres Arboleda (link) on how the company began and his journey to become COO.
DLX: HOW DID PRIVE BEGIN?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA:Privé was born from the need for true experts in private aviation who focus on charter customers and improve the logistics of private aviation in general. Our goal was to enhance the level of customer service and to let aircraft operators focus on what they do best, which is manage the aircraft. We’ve seen success in creating a framework in which operators and clients can efficiently take advantage of the global charter network.
DLX: CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND YOUR LIFE PRIOR TO PRIVE?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA:I have been in the private charter world since college; I worked at a company with a similar concept that focused on regional travel.
DLX: TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED GROWING UP.
ANDRES ARBOLEDA:The biggest challenge I have faced is coming to America alone as a teenager. I didn’t have any local support from friends or family, but I didn’t let that hinder me from following my dreams. At age 20, I started my first business, a valet parking company that did very well. Unfortunately, I was in my second year of college at the time, and I had to sell my valet company so that I could focus on school. However, this entrepreneurial accomplishment was a stepping-stone that helped lead me to where I am today. And now I have a network of clients from which most are friends that are top executives in their countries.
DLX: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PASS ON TO THE 18 YEAR OLD VERSION OF YOURSELF?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA:First of all, read the fine print. As a business owner, no one else is really paying close attention and no one has your back in case you miss something. When you’re 18 or even 24, anything legal can be intimidating. At times, lawyers may not completely know what you want, so they will not create the contracts the way YOU want it done. Fortunately, I haven’t been burned with anything and have been able to get out of the smaller problems I’ve faced. Most new entrepreneurs need to read the fine print and know what they’re getting into before signing contracts. For our private jet charter, every provider has a different contract and my team will read the contract, but I read the small print to make sure they are not trying to hide something.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to take risks. People have to focus on making the best decision. There’s no bad decision, necessarily. It’s the effort that goes behind each decision you make that will lead to the desired outcome. There’s always two roads to get to Rome (or more). I started Privé Jets during the recession and was told I wouldn’t be able to get a luxury airline off the ground. Oddly enough, I worked backwards from all our competitors. 80-90% of their business is domestic and 60% of our business is international. The United States has the biggest market for private aviation. But, we were first to market internationally, and that made us stronger as a worldwide brand. We searched for regions in the world people were scared of and, as a result, I spent most of my time in Saudi Arabia finding new business. In doing so, I was the first person marketing a private charter company in the region. When I was visiting customers all over the world, I was told I was crazy, but no one else was doing it at the time so that set Privé apart from other private jet companies. The pie is big enough, but it’s finding and carving your own piece (or niche).
DLX: WHAT SEPARATES YOUR COMPANY FROM THE OTHERS?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA: We set ourselves apart from other private jet companies by providing a seamless travel experience for our clients. In addition to offering luxury jet charter services to and from our clients’ destination, Privé offers extended services at their destination. These services include an array of personalized services such as hotel accommodations bookings, yacht charters, car rentals, in-flight catering, and much more. Essentially, we are a one-stop shop for our clientele.
DLX: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST SEMINAL MOMENTS IN THE HISTORY OF YOUR COMPANY?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA: From Day One, we have set high strategic goals for internal growth. We have achieved many of them and in some cases, exceeded our expectations. We are particularly proud of our ability to quickly pass the security clearances necessary to fly Heads of State from all around the world. One of our biggest challenges is to get the general public to think differently about private aviation. At every opportunity, we try to educate our clients about on-demand charter and how it can benefit them
DLX: WHERE DO YOU SEE PRIVE IN FIVE YEARS?
ANDRES ARBOLEDA: We would like to help facilitate the booking process for private aviation to ensure that clients always get the best option for their specific itinerary. At the same time, we’d like to maximize the usage of the 40% of private jets that are flying empty every day. By taking advantage of these ‘empty leg’ flights, we can help lower costs for the end users. That is our main goal.
DLX: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR COMPANY VALUES AND YOUR PERSONAL ONES?
AA: Words means a lot to me. When I say I will do something, I will do everything in my power to make it happen. The same way I respect others, is how I want to feel respected. No matter if we’re colleagues, friends, family, or strangers I will treat people like a human being and expect others to treat me the same way.
DLX: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT?
AA: As a dad, my proudest moments are my daughters’ firsts.
DLX: DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL STORY THAT BRINGS A SMILE TO YOUR FACE?
AA: A few weeks ago, one of my first clients and I were having dinner in Mexico. We had a few drinks and they asked who else does Privé fly? I jokingly told them with their reputation and name, they should know everyone. I started sharing a few of my experiences and they immediately knew the couple I was talking about without me even having to say names. We finished dinner, and I finally decided to ask them for referrals. He said, “you know everyone in our social group and network.” This was the first time I realized and felt that I achieved something. Up until that moment, I hadn’t stopped to think how much I’ve grown. For once, I noticed I actually did a good job and felt proud.
DLX: WHAT ARE YOU SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE LOCALES AROUND THE WORLD?
AA: I love Istanbul because of its rich blend of cultures. In Istanbul, you can experience the old and the modern in virtually everything – from food to music. I also love the Caribbean for its great food and amazing beaches. I really get to unplug and recharge my batteries when I go there.
DLX: WHAT DOES LUXURY MEAN TO YOU?
AA: Luxury means making one feel special and unique. Whether it is an item or an experience if you don’t feel special, then it’s not luxury.
DLX: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES AND CHARITIES YOU’RE INVOLVED WITH?
AA: The Special Olympics are near and dear to me because my brother has Down Syndrome. The organization gives the kids an opportunity to shine as athletes. I remember my parents taking time off work to educate new parents of children with Down Syndrome and help them plan a path for the future.
DLX: ONE MORE QUESTION: CAN YOU SHARE A SPECIAL PRIVE STORY WITH US?
AA: One of our clients, a royal member in Saudi Arabia, had his honeymoon several years ago. I remember picking him up on a Monday. He sent security to check the airplane as usual. We immediately realized we had an issue. They had 24 suitcases and it couldn’t fit in the plane. We let him know it wouldn’t and that it posed a definite problem. We ended up renting a second plane solely for the luggage. They traveled to Africa for a week, Europe for a week, and the Caribbean for a week. This was during the time of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, right before the opening ceremony. He wanted to get to Vancouver to watch the grand opening ceremony. Mind you, when this man travels, he books 2-3 floors at times, not 2-3 suites. He will spend millions to ensure an amazing experience. If not a suite, he’ll only stay in the presidential suite then. So guess what? In Vancouver, he wanted to stay in a presidential suite, and unfortunately, it was booked by a Russian billionaire. We had to pay the Russian cash to take a smaller suite. On top of this, we had less than 24 hours to deliver all this, and we did. Stories like this may seem unreal and crazy for the average person, but this is normal for us. We deal with this every day.
And with a story like that, I can see how your concierge and customer service stands out. Thank you for your time, Andres. Appreciate the interview and also your courage in creating such a phenomenal story. It’s one that you’re continuously adding to, by the day.