Dispatcher Buys His Charter Firm, Reaps Big Payoff
AINONLINE by James Wynbrandt - January 2, 2023
In 2020, when the owners of Executive Fliteways (EFI) began shopping the charter/management firm, James Prinzivalli grew apprehensive. “I loved this place,” the former dispatcher and charter sales director said of the operator where he’d started his career 25 years before. “The owners were getting a lot of interest from heavy operators, and negotiations started getting serious.”
The prospective buyer, a “very large” company with its own dispatch and operations departments, “had no real use for the employees working here,” Prinzivalli said. “That rattled me. It got me thinking about trying to buy the company myself.”
Notwithstanding Covid had cratered charter demand and that no other employees of the New York Islip-MacArthur Airport-based service, founded in 1980, were interested in taking a stake, “I decided to risk it,” he recounted. “I put my entire life savings on the line” and bought the company. The purchase closed in October 2020.
If he ever had any second thoughts, EFI’s new president and owner doesn’t let on. “I had put most of my career into this company and I believed in it,” Prinzivalli said recently, and two years on, his faith and investment have paid off.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the last year and a half,” he said, citing fleet restructuring and additions, along with new charter contracts and marketing initiatives. “Not only did we keep everyone's job—no one missed a paycheck—we've added a lot of people,” including pilots, mechanics, operations, and accounting staff, he said.
Formerly catering to the midsize jet charter market, EFI has refocused on longer-range lift, and the fleet—now doubled to about nine and counting—includes a Dassault Falcon 7X; a Gulfstream 550, two G500s, and a GV; along with an Embraer Praetor 600 and Phenom 300; and Bombardier Learjet 60s.
Soon after the purchase, Prinzivalli parlayed his company’s global charter experience into a contract with the U.S. Department of Justice for flights to points “around the world,” he said. “I don’t think I’m allowed to say anything further,” he added, but that set the tone for robust charter activity.
Today, EFI is generating 100-plus hours a month of charter on its large-cabin jets, he said, and the charter team “is really focused on getting the most revenue per hour for our owners.”
“My people are on the front line every day,” he said. “We strategize on pricing, where we think pricing needs to be, and which opportunities are the best to take.”
About 75 percent of charter business is retail, the rest wholesale, and Prinzivalli noted the premiums major operators now pay quality providers for supplemental lift in high-demand periods has also bolstered the bottom line. A jet card, he added, “doesn’t fit into” EFI’s business model.
Upgraded cabin amenities have also been introduced. “We started standardizing all of our stock—liquor, wine, and the snack menus—on flights, to make it more consistent for passengers,” said Prinzivalli, a Long Island native.
The enhancement has boosted repeat business in both the retail and wholesale markets. “Every time someone charters with us, they know [Veuve Clicquot] Yellow Label Brut is going to be available on their flight,” he said.
Some of the aircraft new to the fleet have come from first-time buyers, some from longtime owners seeking “more personalized attention” than their former management company provided, said v-p Keith Ruggirello. “There are no layers of management here,” he said, and EFI aims to be “a lot more responsive” to owners than large management companies often can be.
Ruggirello, who is in charge of fleet acquisitions, jet sales, and market research, started his career alongside then 26-year-old Pinzivalli in dispatch at EFI, before moving on and accumulating significant operational experiences as a Part 135 charter and Part 121 airline pilot. Recruiting Ruggirello back to Executive Fliteways was one of Prinzivalli’s first strategic moves, and began while he was negotiating the company’s purchase.
An Argus Platinum-certified operator, EFI has also instituted a safety management system (SMS) under the new leadership.
More recently, EFI has brought a director of marketing on board, launched a social media campaign, and is rebranding and “modernizing” the company logo, corporate colors, and pilot uniforms.
“Social media is a great way to reach out to new customers and opens up a new gateway of clientele,” Prinzivalli said.
An Instagram campaign features fleet aircraft, destinations, and crewmember spotlights.
“It’s really important to have a visual aesthetic on Instagram for a company like Executive Fliteways,” he said. “It’s like the new magazine—it helps us reach our younger demographics, who actually use social media to source companies.”
Ideally, the company wants a fleet of 15 to 20 aircraft, “just focused on the right airplanes,” said Ruggirello. That would include at least a couple of Florida-based midsize jets, which have seen an outsize growth in charter traffic post-Covid.
“A lot of our owners have second homes [in Florida], and many charter clients moved there the past couple of years,” said Prinzivalli.READ STORY ON AINONLINE