Want to fly 1,000 chickens facing the ax in California to a refuge farm in upstate New York?
Feel like taking your family on an eight-week trip around the world on a multimillion-dollar executive jet?
Or does your organization need to fly medical workers to Liberia to help control the Ebola outbreak?
Philip Mathews, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Air Partner Inc., can help you out. In fact, Air Partner handled all of these situations.
Mathews heads the U.S operations of a firm that arranges flights to anywhere in the world for executives, wealthy individuals, groups and freight.
“If anyone or anything needs to move around the globe, that’s what we do,” said Mathews, who took over as president of Air Partner’s U.S. operations here in 2003. “We’re like an insurance broker for aviation,” said Mathews, who graduated from the University of Buckingham in England where he studied economics and law. Always interested in aviation, he found a summer job as a check-in agent at London’s Gatwick Airport soon after graduation.
Air Partner Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of U.K.-based Air Partner Plc, is an air charter broker. It does not own or operate any planes and is not an air carrier. It provides charter aviation services to individuals, companies and governments and moves specialized freight, especially time-sensitive items.
The company arranges flights on executive jets or turboprops for 1-19 passengers, commercial jets for 20 passengers and up, as well as cargo jets. Late last year, for example, Air Partner shipped a 46-ton mechanical dragon from the city where it was made in France to Beijing in an enormous, Russian-made Antonov 124 cargo jet.
“We work with charter operators and commercial airlines and can arrange flights on any type of aircraft, from a King Air 200 to a Boeing 777, and everything in between,” said Mathews, whose summer job at Gatwick turned into positions as a flight dispatcher and general operations manager at the airport, before he accepted an executive position at FlighTime, a U.S. air charter broker. He later joined Air Partner.
Air Partner carries out due diligence on all the charter companies and airlines it works with, Mathews said, to ensure that they are safe and operate properly maintained aircraft. “There are about 4,000 private jets available for charter in the U.S.,” he said, “and we use about 10 percent of them. Also, we’re very careful about which commercial airlines we use.”
When a client contacts Air Partner, the company looks for the best logistical options — cost, type of aircraft, availability, range, location — and books a flight. Air Partner receives a commission for its service. Its U.S. operations usually generate revenue of about $60 million a year.
Air Partner Plc, the U.S. unit’s publicly traded parent company, was founded in the U.K. in 1961 to train pilots, and evolved into one of the world’s leading providers of aviation charter services.
Air Partner Inc. opened its offices in Fort Lauderdale 17 years ago and now has a staff of 16 working next to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The company uses its local sales staff to find new business, but relies heavily on word-of-mouth references. In addition to the regional headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Air Partner has offices and representatives in New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston, Houston and Boise, Idaho.
Parent Air Partner Plc has a worldwide workforce of around 200 with offices in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Fort Lauderdale is an excellent strategic location for Air Partner’s U.S. headquarters, Mathews said. Clients on most of the flights in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport arranged by Air Partner are high net-worth individuals, corporate executives and government agencies using executive aircraft. The company typically arranges 20-30 flights each month out of South Florida, but will not identify any of its clients.
Flying on an executive jet is not cheap. Mathews’ staff said that a one-way flight from Fort Lauderdale to Caracas on a Gulfstream IV for two people would cost $50,000 (meal included), while the same flight (also with a meal) on a somewhat smaller executive jet (a Hawker Siddeley 800XP) would cost $35,000.
Aside from arranging flights for chickens (which were about to be slaughtered before they were rescued by a poultry-friendly farmer), wealthy individuals and families and medical staff traveling to danger zones, Air Partner in Fort Lauderdale handles a variety of other cases. It flew many European and local soccer fans to the World Cup in Brazil and back, and made arrangements to charter commercial jets that picked up about 2,000 people from a damaged cruise ship in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Mathews recently received a call to assist a group of people who were stranded in Barbados when their plane experienced mechanical problems. He immediately arranged for a flight from England (their starting point) to Barbados, where the passengers were picked up and taken back to England.
For Air Partner, unexpected situations often crop up in the middle of the night and require immediate attention. “We tend to concentrate on complex business situations,” Mathews said.
“We’re a fairly unique company providing a fairly unique service.”
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