CEO and President Jeffrey Menaged takes a break from his blackberry and gives Alister & Paine the low down on the aviation industry.
An authentic Brooklyn boy with an eye for entrepreneurism, Jeffrey Menaged has been running his own companies since he was 20 years old, and is currently CEO and President of his own private jet charter company.
Chief Executive Air is one of the top luxury private jet charter companies—staying on course as the economy swerves and flying solo falls out of style (everyone remembers when P Diddy grounded his private jet last year). The controversy of style versus saving, how to erase your carbon footprint, and how to survive in the luxury market are just a few of the topics Jeffrey opened up about on a rainy Tuesday afternoon in his panoramic Union Square office.
Alister & Paine: There’s no shortage of charter jet companies out there—so what makes you different?
Jeffrey Menaged: The level of service we provide is better than a lot of the other companies out there. We’re about having a lifetime relationship with a client. At the end of the day it’s not rocket science. You take care of your customers; your customers will take care of you. If you don’t, someone else will.
Alister & Paine: How’s the luxury business?
Jeffrey Menaged: It’s been tough. Especially in the United States there’s been a huge backlash against luxury consumption and luxury goods. Where it used to be really cool to rent a private plane for a while, it’s turned into a very un-cool thing to do.
Alister & Paine: You launched Chief Executive Air in 2003, but when did you decide to get into the industry?
Jeffrey Menaged: Right after September 11th. We thought that people would want to avoid commercial flights because of what was going on with security. It used to be back in the day you showed up at the airport and had a ticket, you got on the plane. It wasn’t as difficult as it is today.
Alister & Paine: What was your plan (his blackberry pings) for attacking the aviation market?
Jeffrey Menaged: We didn’t really have one. We kinda figured it out as we went along. We were one of the first companies to use the internet as a way to attract new customers. It worked pretty successfully until the internet got too crowded. Now it’s mostly by referrals.
Alister & Paine: What’s next for Chief Executive Air?
Jeffrey Menaged: We just entered into a marketing partnership with the Florida Panthers. We’ve found that partnering with sports teams is a good way for us to market because they have a fair amount of the kind of people we want to do business with.
Alister & Paine: Tell me about your social responsibility program.
Jeffrey Menaged: Obviously the plane emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when you burn fossil fuels.
We know based on the amount of fuel that’s burned how much carbon dioxide gets released to the atmosphere per flight. You can buy carbon credits equal to that amount, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. So you basically have no footprint on the environment.
Alister & Paine: Is it because you personally feel globally conscious, or is this the latest gimmick?
Jeffrey Menaged: It hasn’t really attracted more clients. When we started this two years ago, we wanted to give our customers the opportunity to use this service in a more environmentally friendly way. Now they’re not leaving a carbon footprint. When you fly a commercial plane it’s not like you use zero footprints (blackberry pings). Delta, American Airlines, they don’t have a carbon offset program.
Alister & Paine: When you fly commercial, do you ever fly coach?
Jeffrey Menaged: Coach is terrible. First class tickets always sound cheap to me because I think of what a private plane costs. So the plane is $30,000 and the ticket is $6,000 I’m thinking I’m already saving $24,000. It’s a good deal.
Alister & Paine: Any advice to struggling companies right now?
Jeffrey Menaged: Stick with it. Cut costs and stick with it. Business is a cycle and the cycle will turn. You just have to be patient and work hard. Challenge and opportunity are one and the same.