Charter jet service preparing to expand into Miami-Dade
By Lou Ortiz
StrategicAir, a new charter jet service that caters to corporate executives, celebrities and families in South Florida, has taken flight.
Despite talk of mergers, bankruptcy filings and the high cost of fuel that is making life miserable for the big domestic airline carriers, StrategicAir is thinking about spreading its wings from its base in Fort Lauderdale to Opa-locka Executive Airport.
"Private aviation is in a global boom," said Miami resident Keith St. Clair, president and chief executive officer of StrategicAir.
"This is an industry we want to be in. So we went out and made our first round of acquisitions in the fourth quarter of last year."
The acquisitions resulted in a $50 million investment, which included the assets of aircraft services firm Reliance Aviation of Fort Lauderdale, Signature Private Jets — an aircraft charter broker — and some assets from Advanced Flight Concepts.
StrategicAir has 25 employees and 12 jets, manages other aircraft that bring in revenue for their owners and maintains those airplanes and its own fleet. By 2009, the firm hopes to increase its fleet to 22 aircraft.
"We consolidated three local businesses, increased employment and took on a new [40,000-square-foot] hangar," Mr. St. Clair said.
StrategicAir's clientele includes major corporations, sports stars, celebrities from all walks of the entertainment business, executives, entrepreneurs and leisure travelers, among others.
Prices vary. For example, for a trip on an eight-seat Hawker aircraft the going rate is $3,000 an hour. On a 12-seat Gulf Stream, the hourly rate is $5,000.
"We can arrange any trip for any customer to anywhere in the world," said Mr. St Clair, former chairman and founder of TraveLeaders, one of the nation's largest travel distribution companies.
"It's a very seamless experience," he said of his company's services. "From travel to meals, hotels, we cover every aspect. More and more private customers are turning to full-service companies like us. Time is money to people."
According to a 2007 survey by the National Business Travel Association, more than 55% of business travelers use corporate jets, charter flights and other aircraft as an alternative to commercial airline travel.
In 2004, that number was 33% and in 2002 only 27%.
"Forty percent of our traffic is in South Florida, returning or leaving," Mr. St. Clair said, adding that he is "looking at Opa-locka as a secondary base as part of an expansion plan.
"There's a recession hedge here," he said. "The people we deal with are recession proof. Even in the corporate area, they need to get from point A to point B more quickly."
Details: StrategicAir, 5360 NW 20th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale. (954) 359-7787 or www.strategicair.com