In this exclusive interview, Lily Niu sits down with Jahid Fazal-Karim, the owner of Jetcraft; a private jet brokerage renowned for its international reach and unrivalled reputation and success.
In this insightful interview, Jahid Fazal-Karim shares his experience and vision for the company's success. With a background in aerospace engineering and extensive global sales and marketing experience, Fazal-Karim has played a pivotal role in propelling Jetcraft from a US-based organisation to a truly global network.
How have you been able to expand Jetcraft from a primarily US-based organisation to an international corporation?
When I joined Jetcraft 15 years ago, the company was already well-established in the US, having grown from its early days as an FBO called Raleigh-Durham Aviation to a leading business aircraft specialist with offices across the country. Joining as Chairman of the Board in 2008, my intentions were to develop Jetcraft into a global network, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Our international presence was first established in the Middle East, and we then went on to form Jetcraft Switzerland, Jetcraft Asia and expand into Turkey.
Since then, we have expanded into 25 locations, from Australia to Latin America, with a team of more than 80 dedicated aviation specialists committed to delivering aircraft sales, acquisitions and trading at the Speed of Life. Today, we’re more than a brokerage firm, we’re a global network of aviation advisors, offering unmatched international reach and unrivalled local knowledge.
Can you speak to your experience in sales and business development, specifically in the aviation industry, and how it has contributed to Jetcraft's success?
I joined Jetcraft in 2008, but my passion for aviation began some time before - having studied Aerospace Engineering in France, followed by a master’s degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University. My career in aviation started in the marketing team at Airbus, gradually working my way to Bombardier, where I ran private jet sales worldwide. This combined global sales and marketing experience allowed me to bring the structure and knowledge that Jetcraft needed to expand into international operations, taking the culture, expertise and passion at the heart of our business and replicating it around the world to become the global leader in business aircraft sales, acquisitions and trades.
Can you discuss some of the challenges you have faced in the industry and how you have overcome them?
An obvious challenge that comes to mind is the limited supply of aircraft brought on by increased demand during the pandemic. Thanks to our global structure, we’re not constrained by borders and are able to widen the reach of our buyers’ search, equip them with early access to inventory before it has been officially listed and source aircraft that suits their needs even in times of limited worldwide supply.
There’s also no hiding from climate change and as an industry we’re challenged every day to improve our impact on the planet. Last year, we partnered with carbon offsetting and compliance solutions experts, Azzera, to remove 3,596 verified tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere - matching 100% of our own emissions and making us a carbon neutral business. We’re also continuing to work with Azzera to explore ways to reduce our carbon emissions as well as those of our customers.
Can you speak to Jetcraft’s reputation and success in the industry, and what sets the company apart from its competitors?
There are many factors setting Jetcraft apart, from our unrivalled international presence to having the strongest and most dedicated aviation specialists in our team. What makes a big difference to our clients is our unique data science-led approach. It means that every aircraft we place, price and position in the market is backed by a blend of proprietary tools and the industry’s best and most recently available data. Our skilled analytics team turn that data into strategic insight and customised recommendations, allowing us to find where demand lives and make sales others can’t.
We have a reputation for offering every client completely personal and inclusive service. They rely on us because we take care of business and negotiate hard on their behalf, bringing fresh energy to every transaction backed by over 60 years of experience.
Tell us about the company's philosophy on managing and maintaining aircraft inventory
Our team is constantly monitoring the most requested aircraft and reporting on the best makes and models for inventory, ensuring we’re one step ahead of demand. Once an aircraft is with us, we have an extensive checklist when it comes to management and maintenance. All models are kept in a flight ready state, and we carry out forward-looking work to ensure they are ready and operational for a buyer, to avoid any unnecessary delay to them receiving their aircraft. We have a meticulous approach to refurbishments, upgrades and inventory, using our extensive knowledge of all makes and models to determine exactly what each aircraft needs and ensure it’s in best condition ready for sale.
How do you see the future of the aviation industry and how does Jetcraft plan to adapt to changes in the market?
One thing the last few years have taught us is that it’s impossible to predict the future, but by naming our 2022 Market Forecast ‘Ever Forward’, we speak to our industry’s remarkable resilience – despite global and economic hurdles, business aviation access, activity and the overall global fleet continues to grow year on year. Our forecast does foresee a much more rational market over the next five years, with average prices and asset depreciation returning to pre-pandemic levels.
We’ve seen a 20% increase in Jetcraft buyers under the age of 45 over the past five years, and in 2021 the share of buyers in this age category was 27% of our transactions, so we’re constantly adapting to cater to this market. The UHNWI population in Asia-Pacific is expected to increase by 33% over the next five years, so we’ll be watching this closely as it represents high potential for pre-owned large jet transactions. As always, we’ll continue to adapt and evolve with our clients’ needs, using our industry leading market intelligence to track the trends and better understand what will happen over the next five years and beyond.
What are some of the most important transactions or deals that you have closed during your time at Jetcraft so far? How do you prepare for these big deals?
One transaction that comes to mind is the European sale of a Dassault Falcon 7X that closed in April 2020. Due to restrictions in place because of the pandemic, the first obstacle was finding a crew to fly the aircraft out of Geneva and ensuring the pilots could enter Switzerland. The buyer also wanted to paint the aircraft after closing, so we had to find an operational FBO that was able to carry out the job. We initially tried to close the deal in Guernsey, but that became impractical when a 14-day quarantine was imposed, and the second possible location we found needed a confirmed tax ruling from the authorities, who were shut down at the time and therefore wouldn’t respond.
After considering everything including closing in international airspace, we found a closed airport in the buyer’s home country and were able to arrange for the airport to open and provide the required staff to land the jet and complete the deal. Aircraft transactions are complex by nature, there are differing rules and regulations from country to country, but the individual nature of the pandemic restrictions exasperated this. The final hurdle for this deal was retrieving the aircraft documents from an OEM service center in another part of the world, which had very few staff members working at the time. It’s a great example of the sheer determination of our team, who sought out creative solutions at every roadblock and persevered until they reached the best possible outcome for our client.
To stay ahead and prepare for big deals like this, we are always prepared for unforeseen obstacles, listening and adapting our strategy to overcome obstacles and ensure success.
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