Airplane Repo star turns charter broker with Open Skies
Ken Cage, the star of Discovery Channel’s hit television series ‘Airplane Repo,’ has launched a full-service charter brokerage that will arrange private jet and yacht transport for wealthy clients in the US.
Cage is a specialist in the recovery and repossession of private jets and other luxury assets, and co-launched the International Recovery Group (IRG) in 2005 with childhood friend Bob Weeks, who handles the company’s sales and marketing activities.
Starting a charter brokerage
After a chance meeting at an air show with Stéphane Dumas, who brings 15 years’ experience in private jet charter, Cage decided to fulfil his ambition of starting a charter brokerage, by forming a partnership with Dumas to launch Open Skies Charters in Orlando.
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“I always wanted to be a charter broker, but couldn’t find one with the class, superior service and offerings restricted by one’s own imagination,” says Cage.
“When I met with Stéphane, I realised he had the experience needed to bring the class and service, and his commitment to the charter business allowed him to be the most creative charter broker there is. It made the decision to work with Stephane and Open Skies a very easy one.”
Seamless travel solutions
By meeting a number of people from the entertainment industry through his involvement with ‘Airplane Repo,’ Cage, who remains a dedicated businessman, saw a gap in the market for a door-to-door private travel solution.
“There are a lot of good yacht brokers out there, but they do not offer air charter,” says Weeks. “Why shouldn’t that experience start the moment you leave the front door?”
Open Skies Charters will mainly work with operators of smaller business aircraft, such as King Airs, Bombardier Challengers, Learjets and Hawkers, but Weeks says: “I am confident that with Stéphane, we are set up to handle any request that comes our way to provide seamless travel for our clients.”
By tapping into IRG’s areas of expertise, Open Skies Charters will be also be able to arrange security, as well as any other requests made by the client, including catering and car transport, but also wet lease and dry lease opportunities.
Open Skies Charters is targeting both businesses and high-net-worth individuals looking for efficient and high-end travel in the US. “We are going after the corporate suites,” says Weeks. “We have been speaking to Fortune 500 companies and we have already made early ties into the NASCAR community.”
Weeks also uses an example of a wealthy family who uses Open Skies Charters to provide discreet travel for their gifted children between sports events, effectively providing a chaperone to guarantee that their children will get to where need to be on time and with minimum hassle.
‘Airplane Repo’ grows business
Having enjoyed a very successful year in 2014, repossessing and remarketing 60-70 business jets, the rapidly expanding IRG has found itself in a position where it is able launch a new venture as ambitious as Open Skies Charters.
Weeks estimates that IRG has doubled its business as a result of the exposure that ‘Airplane Repo’ has afforded it. “The following that Ken built up from the show always amazes me,” says Weeks.
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After a successful first season on Discover Channel, ‘Airplane Repo’ received the green light for a second series, which ran from August 2014 and saw Cage reunited with burly ex-bounty hunter Danny Thompson.
“Some of the difficult repossession stuff is now easier, because people know who we are; they know we’re legitimate,” Cage told Corporate Jet Investor last year.
A unique aspect of Open Skies Charters is a philanthropic streak that is rarely associated with private aviation. The company will contribute a portion of its net profit to local charities and support fundraising events, where Cage and Thompson will appear as special guests.
Perhaps most crucially, the company will also allow customers to donate money to charity based on points that they have accrued through nautical miles flown, using the company’s Nautical Travel Program. Customers can either chose their own charity or donate to Cage and Weeks’ preferred charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a treatment and research facility focused on children’s catastrophic diseases.
“In the public’s eye there is still a very strong negative connotation when corporations and individuals of wealth utilise private travels as a means to do business or enjoy the fruits of their labour for leisure purposes,” says Dumas.
“Ken and I have decided to pioneer a new approach that allows high-net-worth individuals, as well as public or private companies the chance of giving back to the under privileged through our Nautical Travel Program.”
The company is also looking to create and support aviation and aerospace-related opportunities for young people. “We are going to set up scholarships for needy children with aviation aspects in their background,” says Weeks.