INTERVIEW: 10 QUESTIONS WITH JONNY NICOL, FOUNDER AND CEO OF STRATAJET
We recently caught up with the wonderful Jonny Nicol, founder and CEO of Stratajet. Founded in 2011, Stratajet is a revolutionary platform that has brought private aviation into the 21st Century using the power of technology to provide passengers with private jet travel at its most flexible and affordable. If you're looking for high quality, speed and efficiency - look no further.
1.) How would you sum up Stratajet in one sentence?
Stratajet is a revolutionary platform that offers the fastest means of booking aircraft through direct access to the private jet marketplace.
2.) You have a very varied and interesting background. Is there a particular moment in mind that led you to seriously consider getting into the business of private jets?
Everyone is different but I suppose training as a fighter-pilot and spending a decade in the British Army is not your ‘average’ pathway to becoming an entrepreneur! The ‘moment’ came during time, after my stint in the armed forces, spent as a freelance pilot. I did some airshows but also some corporate flying, including piloting private jets. On one occasion I was flying from Nice to London but the aircraft had no passengers, as it simply had to be repositioned. I thought to myself that it should be an option for fliers to take advantage of the empty jet if they were going in the same direction.
Problems like this – inefficiency and wastage – were resulting in hiked prices for passengers and holding back private jets from being accepted as a valid form of transport. In my opinion, the concept of elitism and luxury has outgrown what private jets were originally invented for; and that’s efficiency of travel. So I set about building a software that would bring private jets online for the first time and streamline the industry.
The aim of Stratajet is to make private jets more accessible to the mainstream traveller and make it easier than ever before for fliers to get from A to B.
3.) How long did you spend collecting the inordinate amount of data needed to build Stratajet?
It took us two years to build a bank of data that could address the almost unthinkably complex process of calculating the cost of every single private jet flight. The fees have thousands of variables which have to be considered and – due to the bespoke nature of private jet travel – the cost of every flight needs to be calculated from scratch, unlike commercial aviation aggregators like Skyscanner or Expedia that have all these variables pre-determined before making seats available to customers.
4.) Are you seeing patterns in the types of people booking flights through Stratajet, for example, a certain age bracket?
Interestingly, the beauty of the technology giving people better access to private jets is that a wider audience of travellers are able to benefit from flying privately. Because we have made it so simple for people to ‘click and go’ and because we offer total transparency, our customers range from teenagers to octogenarians. It’s a far cry from the industry’s stereotype of jets being reserved for the rich and famous or the business elite.
That said, because millennials are embracing technology to such an extent in today’s society, they make up our fastest growing age bracket. As a result, overall we are lowering the average age of the private jet flier overall.
5.) Are customers able to add extra details onto their flight plan (for example, chauffeur services at either end)?
Yes, the whole service can be customised and customers can even select a specific FBO (fixed based operator) online, according to the services they need on arrival at the airport. Despite offering booking via a fully automated platform service, we have an industry-leading customer service team that is available 24/7. So if it’s a chauffeur service you want, or a specific vintage of champagne, we can tailor any element of the flight. And we’ve had some pretty wacky requests from passengers wanting beds on board for their pets to ordering McDonalds delivered to the jet!
6.) Is there a memorable moment that really stands out in your career since starting Stratajet?
The day we truly got the technology up and running was a moment that I will never forget, since it defined us as a company. After we had collected data it then took us another two years to program a search engine intelligent enough to filter through the variables! Stratajet makes upwards of 2.5 million calculations when returning flight results but the first time we ran a search it took around 20 minutes to produce these final prices.
Naturally we had to get this down to a consumer-friendly time and after running out of funding and living of practically nothing for six months, we eventually had an idea that brought the search time down to around 12 seconds. I can’t describe how incredible and emotional that moment was for my team and myself. In hindsight it was a computer science miracle and we went from a worthless company to a company whose evaluation was increasing by a million a day.
7.) We are massive fans of the city of London. Where do you like to go in the city when you are not busy working?
It’s rare that I get time to really enjoy London since I’m often travelling to meet with aircraft operators. We are continually building the network of aircraft on the system as more aircraft means more availability of flights and therefore more affordable costs for fliers. I have recently moved out of central London so when I’m not working I like to enjoy the countryside. My passion of course is still flying and I can often be found in an ex-RAF bulldog flying aerobatics over the English countryside.
8.) When travelling, what are the travel essentials you would absolutely not leave home without?
I have it ingrained into me from my military background to always be prepared and my desert camo rucksack is always with me. It has me covered for pretty much every eventuality, whether it be a change of shirt or a medical emergency!
9.) What makes Stratajet particularly special?
For me it’s the knowledge that the hard work has paid off. It was a long and laborious process getting the technology up and running but we are redefining the perception of an entire industry. That was what drove us through the difficult times – the inspiration of what we were setting out to achieve. Now that we’re live, a third of our customers are first time private jet travellers and the industry enjoyed it’s best year in a decade in 2017, proving that we’re not just making it easier for rich people to book private jets; we’re fundamentally changing the way people travel.
For fliers it’s the transparency. The customer is no longer at the mercy of a broker to connect them to the market. The price they see is the price they pay and they are in complete control.
10.) How would you sum up the brand ethos of Stratajet in three words?
Integrity, determination, obsession.
Stratajet allows you to search, compare and book from the largest choice of private jets available for charter at the best prices, instantly. Visit www.stratajet.com and download the app to discover more.