Ricardo Gato joined Stratajet as Chief Marketing Officer in January 2016. His first remit was to completely overhaul the brand to prepare the company for launch in April 2016. After an extremely successful launch Ricardo has focused on the continued growth of the platform, taking it from strength to strength. He now looks after all commercial aspects of the business allowing him to drive further success for this cutting-edge technology. Read our exclusive interview with the man who is helping revolutionise private jet travel.
Ricardo boasts a wealth of experience in the private aviation market, spending over ten years developing some of the industry’s biggest players. This started with seven years at Netjets where he oversaw the advertising activity and all marketing channels. He then moved to Victor as the Head of Marketing where he was responsible for the EU marketing strategy.
What is Stratajet?
Stratajet is an incredible platform that gives customers direct access to the private jet market place – the first of its kind to do so.
Available via Stratajet.com or the Stratajet app, it removes the old-fashioned means of booking a jet via a broker, providing instant and accurate costs of a huge range of aircraft for any given flight. These can then be booked by the mere click of a button – or tap of a finger – making it easier than ever before for travellers to get from A to B.
Can it be described as the Uber for private jets?
That’s an easy analogy and other companies are claiming a similar ‘tagline’ but Stratajet is far more complex than that. What we’ve done is build an incredibly user-friendly interface on the face of it but one that makes millions of complicated calculations behind the scenes. These were previously done manually by aircraft operators and it was a very time-consuming process, often taking hours, even days, for a flight quote to be confirmed.
The complexities stem from the vast number of factors involved in determining the cost of every single private jet flight. Whereas aggregators like Skyscanner and Expedia make it easy to book seats on commercial aircraft, the nature of private jet travel – in that it offers a bespoke service – brings with it the need to calculate the cost of every potential flight from scratch. There are 15 sets of fees involved, each with hundreds of variables, and the Stratajet search engine can make upwards of 2.5 million calculations every time a customer requests a flight.
Are you a technology company or an aviation company?
We are an aviation company at heart but one with an incredibly advanced technology at its core.
We spent two years collecting an inordinate amount of data from all over Europe and building this into exceptionally complex algorithms but when we first ran a search it took twenty minutes for the system to return the results. This obviously wasn’t going to be a viable proposition for customers, so we then spent another three years refining this search process and eventually had a break-through that brought this down to about ten seconds.
How does your technology affect your customer base?
Our technology means that we’re the only provider that can do something to challenge the stereotypes of private aviation – in fact we’re already attracting a younger segment of travellers. The traditional booking process brings with it a natural flaw in that operators can often be reticent to provide quotes to first-time fliers, who they see as a risk since the booking is less likely to be finalised and paid for than with a regular private jetsetter. The result has been a slowly ageing customer base, with the industry struggling to bring in new passengers.
However, the immediacy of Stratajet is paving the way for a younger audience of travellers to benefit from private jet travel. Because we provide instant and accurate costs of flights – without any work being required from operators – we’re making private jets accessible. Millennials are our fastest growing customer age segment and around 30-40% of our bookings are families travelling with children.
There are other products in the private jet market how does Stratejet differentiate from competitors?
Other providers have different models but they all share the basic principle of a broker organising your flight for you. Unfortunately it’s a misconception – and clever marketing perhaps – that these platforms offer ‘online booking’ of private jets, since they don’t actually do what they say ‘on the tin’. Rather their websites collect flight requests and these are then pushed out to operators, who have to manually calculate the costs. Once quotes are delivered, you then have to finalise the booking with your broker. It’s the same long-winded, convoluted and inefficient process of old and, due to commissions taken by the broker, unnecessarily pricey.
In contrast, Stratajet is the only platform that has built, from scratch, it’s own technology that can make these calculations, meaning that aircraft are right at fliers’ fingertips. It also has no hidden fees or membership costs.
How much does it cost to use your service?
Not as much as you’d think! The average booking via the Stratajet app is around £6,000 but the platform comes into its own on trips where groups of friends or business colleagues are travelling together. We can often be priced better than the equivalent cost per person for business class seats on commercial flights. Stratajet is also the only platform that can efficiently reschedule empty aircraft to your requested route, bringing with it huge savings on your flight.
Naturally there are always different ends of the spectrum and our dedicated customer service team is always on hand to help you customise your trip if you wish to add a little extra to your flight – perhaps a chauffeur pick-up or a particular vintage of champagne!
What was the hardest bit about bringing this company to market?
Building the technology and refining it to make it fast enough to run searches was a real challenge.
Every flight requires verification of aircraft, airfield and handling feasibility as well as pricing, so while the ‘pricing engine’ looks at the fee variables, the ‘compliance engine’ examines elements like time and noise and the logistics of whether specific aircraft sizes can use particular airfields.
To give you an idea of the complexity of the Stratajet system for Europe, we have 512,000 lines of pricing data, each one effected by up to 247 different variables, details which can be as precise as the noise produced by the aircraft two miles before touch down. The ‘lightbulb moment’ came in realising the order in which the calculations are made could be streamlined.
What are your predictions for the luxury aviation market in the next five years?
That’s a very interesting question because the perception of private jet travel is one of a luxury toy for the rich and famous but our vision is to give everyone who wishes to fly by private jet the opportunity to do so.
Our dream is to make private aviation available to the mainstream traveller and we’re already opening up the industry as shown by our customer base. A third are first-time private jet fliers, which is a staggering statistic when compared to the industry average of less than one per cent. It shows just how much the industry has been struggling to attract new customers.
Ultimately, as more and more people use Stratajet, we believe there will be a watershed moment in the industry – private aviation ‘before Stratajet’ and private aviation ‘after Stratajet’. It’s a total game-changer.