Stratajet gear up for September 28 launch


Meeting the company’s CEO and founder Jonny Nicol in his London offices at the end of August, he comes across as a man who is finally getting hold of a toy he has always wanted. His exuberance and excitement about the upcoming launch is infectious. And it is not hard to see why. Startajet’s mission to bring live pricing to online charter requests has been a long journey.

Originally formed in 2010 with the aim of eliminating inefficiencies in the charter booking market, Nicol and his team set about building a system that can handle live quoting, rather than using the traditional online method of requesting quotes from brokers and operators.

But to do this, the team realised that they needed to solve another problem first.

The result is a two system solution, with Stratajet being the front end consumer front website where customers request quotes, and a second system in the background called Stratafleet that is used by charter companies.

At heart, Stratafleet is charter pricing and availability tool. Operators use it to upload details of their fleet, which can be linked to scheduling software. But the real work is done behind the scenes, and it’s the reason that Stratajet has taken so long to launch.

In the background, there is a computer algorithm that calculates 14 different parameters to produce a live price, which Nicol states is 100% accurate.

To get to the point that live prices can be given, the company embarked on a four year long project that researched every possible chargeable option when flying in Europe. They dubbed this Operation Longreach. The team researched landing fees, en-route charges, out of hours fees, handling charges, as well as all other associated fees, all of which goes into creating the live quote price.

Nicol says that when his Operation Longreach visited operators to talk to them about joining Stratajet, they tested out the system by comparing quotes generated via Stratajet, and quotes they put together themselves. Out of the 124 operators the team visited, all but one signed up. Nicol says that he knew the one operator who didn’t sign up wouldn’t be doing so and that the meeting with them was more of a courtesy visit: “They made a very good argument about why they aren’t doing it, around how they are looking to move their business forward”.

“The problem is that it’s so easy to request a quote for a private jet, you end up generating loads of them”

That is not to say that all the meetings were straight forward, although Nicol says he often came across the same initial objection; “I’d say in 80 per cent of the meetings I’ll sit down, and the guy across the table says ‘Look, we’re just so bored of you companies, there’s a new one every week. You’re sending us all these quotes, and what we want to know is how do you filter real customers?’ The problem is that it’s so easy to request a quote for a private jet, you end up generating loads of them. A 14 year old kid, sitting at home who is interested in finding out how much is a private jet can get a quote. And as soon he types in that quote request, suddenly there’s 100 man hours across Europe of people putting together these quotes to send back. And there’s no customer.”

It’s a problem that’s plaguing the industry according to Nicol. “So we got some really interesting stats from some of the bigger companies, saying that we did x number of thousand of quotes, and we only got two bookings. And when they then tot up the man hours spent, it’s just not worth those two bookings. Because the profit margins that they make on those two bookings don’t justify the amount of quote generation, and it’s really annoying the industry.”

One month ago, Nicol was not able to commit to an actual date, just saying it would be before it snows in London again. But this time around he’s keen to give a date, no doubt buoyed by the success of Operation Longreach; “I wasn’t expecting it, I was expecting much more of a push back. And what we’ve been able to do is bring forward our launch date substantially. We’re going to soft launch it on September 28, so that’s when all the systems will go live.”