I was able to experience this again first hand last week, when our CFO, VP of Maintenance and I took one of our aircraft to go see a good client and friend in Fayetteville, Arkansas. As we planned the trip, we looked at the options of how to best get there. Our options included driving, an airline flight out of Nashville and connecting through Dallas, or taking one of our aircraft. By car, our travel time would have been about nine hours. By airline, it would have been about four and a half hours. In either case, the trip would have required us to stay overnight to make our meeting times. The airfare on the airlines is between $1100 and $1300 per person round trip; so, three of us could have cost close to $4000, or about $4400, including hotel rooms and additional meals. Nashville to Fayetteville is not a low fare market.
We have access to our charter aircraft and small flight school aircraft that I can pilot; so, we even had to decide which aircraft to take if we chose to fly ourselves. In a Cirrus, the flight would be tow hours, thirty minutes, while in a twin-engine turboprop the flight time would be an hour, fifty minutes. Because the Cirrus was not available, we scheduled the turborop.
We departed at 6:35am which meant I had to get to the airport at 6:20 - no early arrival required and the plane would not have left without me had I been a few minutes late.
We arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at 8:30 am. Our client picked us up at the airport and we drove to his office, about ten minutes away. After a two hour meeting covering a wide range of business issues, we drove to look at the other airports in the region. We took a little time to stop off at a legendary local restaurant, Herman’s, and enjoy a plate of their famous ribs. After lunch, it was time to go home; so, with business concluded, we were back on the aircraft at 1:30 pm and back in the office at Smyrna at 3:30 pm. We had accomplished a fill day of business on the road and arrived home with a couple of hours left in the day to wrap up more issues.
Our two hours in the aircraft each way provided the additional benefit of discreet and secluded time with my colleagues to catch up on issues of the day. A lot of business gets done in the secluded cabin of business aircraft.
The day after the trip I was back in the office, rested from a night’s sleep in my own bed, and ready to take on the world again – certainly not the same feeling I have after two or three days on the road shuffling though the airline system.
These type trips happen thousands of times every day in this country; but, when I experience it myself, I am reminded again what business aviation is all about. The rate on the Cirrus would have been $2800.00, saving us $1600.00. The rate on the turbo-prop to a retail customer would have been about $5200.00. With the savings or with the extra $800.00, we gained a full day in the office for three senior executives who were well-rested and productive upon our return. That extra day is worth it at twice the price.