The Coronavirus pandemic is only the latest challenge that more than 2,000 private independent aviation companies face. Rising operating costs and mounting competition from larger operators who benefit from economies of scale pose continued threats. However, there is good news for Part 135 operators looking for relief beyond the CARES Act. The fast-growing Fly Louie Alliance provides benefits and savings to its independent operator members and rivals the negotiating and purchasing powers of the largest private operators in the industry.
In the first quarter of 2020, the Fly Louie Alliance grew its membership to nearly 100 operators and 715 tails, representing a 45% Q1 increase in its enrolled fleet. Fly Louie Alliance members enjoy free access to a popular fuel savings programme and industry expertise tailored to help smaller, independent operators thrive. More savings programme benefits are on the horizon, with prioritisation of benefits determined by operator feedback provided to the Fly Louie team.
Founder Julia Takeda is confident that the growth in the business, which launched in September 2019, will continue. “After two years of operating our own private charter business, we knew the challenges facing our industry and those are even more pressing today. The response we’ve seen to this new venture, particularly in recent weeks, confirms what we already knew. We are just shy of 100 Part 135 operators in our alliance membership and they are enthusiastic about savings and insights to help them grow their bottom line and compete at scale.”
Members in the alliance, who pay no membership fees, enjoy better than contract fuel rates at 40 FBOs in key airports across the United States, saving an average of $.40 per gallon. This past week, the rate at one alliance preferred FBO reached as low as $1.94. The team is actively signing new FBO locations to further expand its nationwide coverage, with three key preferred FBOs added in Q1. Fly Louie is also working with alliance members to create new product benefits, such as savings on healthcare and crew travel costs.
The Fly Louie team is optimistic about its ability to sustain the current growth trajectory, with ambitious sales and utilisation goals set for 2020. According to chief operating officer, Eytan Kurshan, “We are doubling down our efforts on utilisation, helping our member operators take full advantage of their benefits at our preferred FBOs.” He further elaborated on the benefit that partner FBOs are seeing: “FBOs are reporting incremental new business, and are even making introductions to new FBO partners as well. This is a win-win for operators and FBOs alike.”