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StraightLine Private Air Founder Tom Filippini in front of Turboprop

The Genesis of StraightLine Private Air

Creating world-class, extraordinary travel experiences – for myself and others – has been my lifelong passion.

The inspiration for StraightLine has its roots in one of my earlier ventures — when I founded Exclusive Resorts, the world’s largest and most respected luxury destination club, now owned by AOL Founder Steve Case.

Many of Exclusive Resorts’ jaw-dropping properties are in the most beautiful — but most remote — parts of the world.

With constricting airline flight schedules, reaching many of these destinations is a real pain. 

Commercial flights to remote airports typically involve long layovers, inconvenient flight times and all of the hassles that come along with airline travel these days.

Moreover, the airlines — accessing fewer than 400 of the nation’s 5,000 airfields — rarely fly into the closest airport, so long ground commutes are the norm.

The ER members that have access to private aircraft are able to bypass the enormous hassle of flying commercial, set their own flight schedule and fly directly to the nearest airport — often several hours closer.

As we were feverishly building Exclusive Resorts, I was occasionally afforded the opportunity to fly private to reach as many locations as quickly & efficiently as possible.

From the moment I first experienced flying private myself, I was hooked.

Choosing to fly into any airport, at any time was life-changing.

It was so powerfully convenient that I was determined to figure out how “it really works” so that I could enjoy it more frequently and help others navigate the complex landscape of private aviation.

I didn’t ever anticipate that the secrets I uncovered would lead to a disruptive private aviation business model. 

As I dug in to understand traditional private aviation businesses, I uncovered several “fatal flaws” that contributed to the exorbitant costs levied by the big name jet companies.

# 1 – Most programs own & operate a “fixed fleet.”

Aircraft ownership is expensive, risky and limiting. In addition to the capital expense & ongoing maintenance, attempting to build a fixed fleet that matches demand is painfully challenging. And serving clients throughout the country – if not the world – requires considerable & expensive “deadheading.”

Successful commercial airlines learned this long ago and, therefore, typically lease their planes to accommodate for demand fluctuations.

Private aviation companies that own a fleet must charge hefty amounts to cover capital expenditures, ongoing maintenance and compensate for inevitable supply/demand imbalances. They also must constantly move empty aircraft to pick-up and drop-off their clients.

The success of AirBnB, UBER & others has taught us that asset ownership is no longer king. It’s all about leveraging “excess capacity” to create more economical solutions for consumers.

Rather than owning aircraft, StraightLine has partnered with hundreds of vetted aircraft owners & operators that contribute excess capacity for use by StraightLine members.

# 2 – Aircraft mismatch.

The reality is that 80% of private flights are under 2 hours carrying 2-4 people.

Yet 80% of jet programs operate a fixed fleet of 6-8 passenger business jets designed to fly coast-to-coast.

Therefore, clients of traditional jet programs are forced to select from a limited spectrum of planes and too often pay for more airplane than they need.

StraightLine has access to every imaginable type of aircraft such that we can best match the right equipment to each individual trip. No waste.

#3 – Corporate overhead; sales & marketing costs.

With lots of choices available to consumers and huge dollars at stake, private aviation is competitive.

Most private aviation companies have created organizational structures with top-heavy management and spend heavily on marketing, advertising & sponsorships to stake their claim.

These expenses are ultimately built into the rates charged to clients.

We operate a lean, low overhead business model with growth coming exclusively from word-of-mouth and partnerships with leading brands that recommend our service as a benefit to their members & guests.

We keep our overhead costs low so you fly for less.

#4 – Private equity & hedge fund backing.

To account for the expenses incurred in #1 – #3 above, private aviation has become heavily reliant on private equity to fund start-up and growth.

Private equity is an expensive source of capital, with limited partners seeking outsized returns in a relatively short period of time.

Private aviation companies backed by private equity must build rate structures that not only cover their high costs, but leave room for healthy limited partner returns.

StraightLine has been profitable & funded through organic sales since inception. We have not sought, nor do we require outside capital.

This fortunate position further enables us to offer rates well below those of our competitors.