Interview: Flexjet CTO, Greg Johnson, on challenges of re-designing fractional providers’ app

CJI Team

Flexjet has recently released its new app for their customers, allowing owners to fully manage their account with the fractional ownership company, from booking flights to placing catering requests.

Corporate Jet Investor spoke to Flexjet’s chief technology officer, Greg Johnson, to understand more about the app and how it is helping their customers get the most from their fractional ownership.

 

Corporate Jet Investor: Have customers been asking for an app?

Johnson: We had an app before, so this is more like a Version 2.0 – a complete overhaul. But customers have been asking for more functionality, and to be able to do a lot more from the app.

Corporate Jet Investor: How long has it taken to redevelop?

Johnson: The app took nine months to redevelop, which included a lot of testing to make sure we had a very smooth launch. The data and the core operating systems were already in place, so it was mainly a challenge of creating the user-interface.

Corporate Jet Investor: Is this being driven by customer experience rather than the aim of cutting customer service costs?

Johnson: This is 100% about improving the customer experience. If you want to add a passenger to your next flight whilst in a meeting, you now can, in an easy and discreet way. The app also means that clients are never more than a button away from talking to their account manager. Cost savings didn’t really enter the equation. We’ve been experiencing exponential growth so cost saving isn’t really necessary at this point – so it really is all about the service.

Corporate Jet Investor: A lot of charter brokers have launched apps saying that they offer end-to end bookings without any phone contact. As a fractional you are probably better placed to do this than a charter company, but do you see this happening soon? (For example, a customer booking and flying by only using the app.)

Johnson: Some of our customers will do this without any phone contact, as it is a quick process to re-book routes that they have previously travelled with Flexjet.

The difference is that charter brokers need new customers, and they need more personal contact to build a relationship with potential customers. Our app is about enhancing the customer experience, for all of our clients with whom we already have a trusted relationship.

We aren’t expecting anyone to buy a fraction of an aircraft online, so for fractional companies there is always going to be the necessity for more communication with clients than just through the app. Once owners are on the program, the app then primarily becomes a trip management system.

Corporate Jet Investor: Is it fair to say that fractional companies are now catching up with online charter brokers?

Johnson: We are playing a different game to charter brokers, as we are more like a private airline. And if anything – we are more technologically advanced. We hold over 480TB of data, which is rapidly growing, and we have a huge technology infrastructure to support this. Brokers don’t have this – they would envy this.

There is a lot of hype around the charter market, which is interesting to watch, and some brokers are catching up. But we aren’t really comparable.

Flexjet’s app allows for users to receive real time travel updates for upcoming trips.

Corporate Jet Investor: Do you think this will encourage new ‘techy’/ Silicon Valley users to buy shares?

Johnson: I don’t think the app alone will make people buy shares. No one holds out from buying a fraction of an aircraft until a good app comes to market, but the app will appeal to techy people as well as the rest of our clients. We have tech users in our existing customer base and they have been great beta testers.

Corporate Jet Investor: Which feature(s) of the app do you see as being the most innovative?

Johnson: There isn’t one feature in particular, but the breadth of the app is what is truly innovative. There are 168 different features, from driving directions to the FBO, live flight tracking, account information, and pictures of the pilots for your flight. The app is hugely comprehensive.

Corporate Jet Investor: How has the initial response to the app been?

Johnson: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and is exceeding our expectations. We’ve had hundreds of users download the app already. Of course there will be a few owners who will not use it, but we expect an extremely high adoption rate. We’ve even had a customer re-activate their account purely because of the app, which highlights the excitement around it.

Corporate Jet Investor: Where will the app go from here?

Johnson: We will continue to update the app, and add more features to enhance the customer experience even more. This is a fluid process, and we will constantly learn from which features users like the most, and continue to use feedback to improve what the app can offer.

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