CJI Miami 2019

Optimism was in the air at CJI’s Miami 2019 conference, as delegates heard rosy predictions for the US economy and bold plans to attract millions of new customers to private aviation. Words: Mike Stones

Greg Johnson, President and chief technical officer, Tuvoli: “The combination of smartphone and digital payments have given us the ability to buy almost anything from almost anyone.”

CJI Miami 2019

Optimism was in the air at CJI’s Miami 2019 conference, as delegates heard rosy predictions for the US economy and bold plans to attract millions of new customers to private aviation. Words: Mike Stones

Greg Johnson, President and chief technical officer, Tuvoli: “The combination of smartphone and digital payments have given us the ability to buy almost anything from almost anyone.”

WARM NOVEMBER sunshine bathed the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach – venue for the CJI Miami 2019 conference. It was no less sunny inside; as a poll of delegates revealed three-quarters of attendees were either optimistic or very optimistic about the prospects for business aviation in 2020.


It was an optimism shared by Gus Faucher, chief economist with PNC Financial Services Group, during his keynote address. “We are seeing the longest economic expansion in US history, which will continue to at least mid-2020, if not beyond,” he told delegates.

Kenny Dichter, CEO of the private aviation membership company Wheels Up, unveiled bold new plans to bring private flying to millions of new customers. “We see an opportunity to bring private flying to millions – and the private flying lifestyle to the world,” he told delegates.


Estimating that up to 2m people had money to spend on private aviation, Dichter believed smartphone-geolocation technology would help fill empty seats on business aircraft.


Digital platforms were “removing friction from the customer journey”, agreed Andrew Collins, President and CEO of Sentient Jet, which pioneered jet cards 20 years ago. Understanding the customer's data was essential, he added. Greg Johnson, President and chief technical officer of open-technology platform Tuvoli, said its mobile app enabled a broker to make a travel request for a business jet and for an operator to respond to a charter quote “anytime and from anywhere”.

Sharing a smile (left to right): Cory Valentine, NetJets, Mike Silvestro, Flexjet and Nick Sandler, Stonebriar Commercial Finance.

“Now, we are seeing people who are very young … buying a $50m-plus airplane as their first foray into ownership.”

Don Haloburdo, vice president and general manager, Jet Aviation.

“Universal connectivity means having direct access to the end user.” Jason Johnson, MD, Click Aviation Network
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“Safety is the foundation of our industry and there are 100,000 flights a day: more than 1m up in the air at any one time.” Michel Ouellette, Bombardier Aviation.

“2020 is a harder call than 2019. There’s plenty of uncertainty out there.” Don Dwyer, Guardian Jet.

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“The thing that gets overlooked is that your data is the central nervous system of your business.”

Andrew Collins, President and CEO Sentient Jet.

Brian Proctor, President and CEO of Mente Group highlighted what he saw as a gap in the market for smaller business jets. Today there are 29 models manufactured with an average cost of about $30m, he said. “To us, it seems that there is a lot of emphasis on the high end of the market [for larger jets]. Are there enough billionaires or CEOs of public companies who are willing to invest $60m to $70m in one of these aircraft?” Mente Group says there are key gaps in the market for jets in the price range of $10m to $15m, which is “virtually empty”.


But Don Haloburdo, vice president and general manager at Jet Aviation, said young billionaires were acquiring planes priced at $50m before upgrading to larger models.

Five guys named (left to right): Per Marthinsson, Avinode Group, Joseph Zulueta, Aeronautical Systems, Don Haloburdo, Jet Aviation, Michael Amalfitano, Embraer, and Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up.

Listening (and talking) by the pool. The poolside cocktail reception, sponsored by JSSI, offered a great networking opportunity.

NetJets’s President Patrick Gallagher was equally upbeat about the prospects for growth in business aviation but expressed frustration that the growing number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) had, so far, failed to result in a corresponding boost for business aviation. “Here’s what keeps me up at night,” Gallagher told delegates.


“Since 2012, the number of billionaires has increased by more than 127% while over the same time there’s been a 19% growth in private aviation traffic. That’s a scary thought or a big opportunity – depending on your point of view.” Nevertheless, NetJets operates 500 flights a day for 8,000 customers worldwide using its fleet of 750 aircraft; making it the world’s fourth biggest ‘airline’.

Session Highlights:

Sunny outlook for the US economy – The longest expansion in US history is set to continue until at least mid-2020.


Business aviation set to take off – The rising number of High Net Worth Individuals signals vast opportunity to bring private aviation to more customers worldwide.


And technology will help – Smartphone-geolocation technology and booking apps will attract a new generation of customers.


Fleeting opportunities – Significant rationalisation of fleets has created opportunities for manufacture of smaller jets.

Tired of Tailspin cocktails? Then try the smoothie selection.

This jazz band put a swing into the proceedings at the Dealmakers Dinner.

Audience Votes:

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Mike Stones,
Group Editor,
Corporate Jet Investor

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Mike Stones,
Group Editor,
Corporate Jet Investor