Flairjet CEO reveals motives behind Marshall take-over
David Fletcher, CEO of FlairJet, an Oxford-based aircraft management and charter company, has said he decided to sell the company to Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group to allow Flairjet to compete at a higher-level within the market.
“We felt we had grown a very strong brand over the past three-and-a-half years and built-up a very strong management team,” said Fletcher. “But we didn’t have the financial muscle or the support systems needed for significant growth.”
Fletcher denied that selling the company was ever part of his plan.
“Had the recession not happened we could have gone for a slower, more organic growth, but things are tough out there and we felt that we needed the support of a major player to compete,” he said.
Fletcher admitted that Flairjet had been approached with similar offers in the past. “We had one other AOC operator approach us and two or three investors within the industry,” he said. “The problem was finding the right cultural fit. We have a very strong safety culture within the company, and that’s Flairjet’s focus rather than necessarily offering the cheapest service.”
The decision to go with Cambridge-based Marshall was an equally professional and personal decision, with Fletcher adding: “On a personal level, I knew Steve Jones from when I set up FlairJet, so that helped. As a company, they have the experience and the right support structure in place. They’re huge family with a strong footing in aviation.”
The take-over sees Flairjet become a Marshall operator and an extension of Marshall’s Jetability one-stop business aviation service, but Flairjet will continue to operate as a standalone brand.
Marshall previously cited Flairjet’s experience of aircraft management as a driving force behind the acquisition and Fletcher is keen to stress that this will remain the essence of the business. “We are specifically an aircraft management company,” he says. “We are looking to grow the managed fleet of aircraft.
Previously managing a fleet consisting entirely of Embraer Phenom business jets, the Marshall takeover has allowed Flairjet to add new aircraft types to its fleet. “We now have a Bravo, an XLS and a Challenger 300 and we have the skillset to add bigger aircraft,” Fletcher says. “Adding a Challenger 604 or 605 would be the next logical step – and I am rated to fly them, so I am particularly interested in those jets.”
With consolidation already a buzzword within the industry, there are suggestions that the deal struck between Marshall and Flairjet could pave the way for more acquisitions.
“Potentially, yes,” says Fletcher. “If there are smaller companies like us looking to expand their market share, then they may choose to make a similar decision.”