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Most decisions in life are a balance of positives and negatives that result in some level of compromise. How much compromise must be made in a decision generally correlates to the perceived satisfaction with the outcome. Sometimes though, life presents the uncommon opportunity to make uncompromising choices with an expectation of total satisfaction. The use of a private aircraft charter exemplifies a decision with the expectation of total customer satisfaction.
The aircraft charter industry exists to supply these uncompromising customers an exclusive travel option which puts the customer in complete control of where they go and when they go in complete privacy without airport delays, long lines and security concerns. Mountain Aviation is part of an industry whose core mission is to provide their customers uncompromised safety, exceptional quality and unparalleled customer service in delivering efficient, flexible and secure transportation to more than 22,000 airport pairs in United States alone.
Among charter companies, certain operations like Mountain Aviation in Colorado stand out from the rest due to their unique operating environment. The Rocky Mountains present a very unique environment with substantial operating challenges that makes Mountain Aviation’s pilots and their special operating procedures stand out from all others. The pilots must possess a certain skill set matched to experience and operating under a set of company procedures that has produced over 42,000 hours of safe operation in Mountain Aviation’s case. Certain airports in Colorado have deserved reputations for requiring the highest level of piloting skills. Among these are Aspen, Eagle and Rifle. Customers pay a premium for the unique skill set and operating experience to obtain the services of Mountain Aviation.
Mountain Aviation was able, until this year, to fulfill the expectations of its customers by reserving airport slots at Aspen, Eagle and Rifle up to 72 hours in advance and most often just 12 hours prior to arrival. The old procedure provided a reliable window of time for Mountain Aviation to fulfill its uncompromising customer’s expectation of being in control of their schedule when paying for the privilege.
Now, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) is changing the procedure to what it calls a Ground Delay Program. Within the name of the program it is obvious what the result will be: delays. The new program started in November and will be in effect through the busy holiday season ending in January. The FAA will allow Mountain Aviation to depart at any time without pre-reserving a slot. However, if there are a lot of aircraft departing at the same time for say Aspen then the FAA will issue a Ground Delay. You may have experienced the FAA Ground Delay program if you have flown out of JFK, Chicago, Atlanta or San Francisco and sat on the ground in an aircraft for a few hours. When flying commercially the expectation of such delays comes with the territory. This is not the case in the private aircraft charter industry in which a delay is not an acceptable service delivery option for our customers. Customers do not expect us to Fly Blind when it comes to their departure and arrival times.
The new Ground Delay program makes it impossible for Mountain Aviation to fulfill its core mission to its most demanding customers when flying into the most exclusive destinations of Aspen, Eagle and Rifle. The blame for delays will not fall on the FAA. The customer who is sitting in one of Mountain Aviation’s aircraft for hours waiting to get his family to Aspen will blame the pilot and Mountain Aviation. The inability to provide the customer experience expected will result in a loss of that customer, loss of reputation and diminish the attraction of aircraft charter services to these mountain airports. Mountain Aviation expects the FAA Ground Delay program to have a significant economic impact on Colorado charter operators who specialize in these unique airport operations. There is no indication that the FAA considered the economic impact of its decision when applying its Ground Delay program to a very unique customer service. Already, the Colorado charter industry and its customers are rethinking policy and recommending alternate airports, driving, or planning travel before sunset or off peak days of the week to avoid the ambiguity of potential delays. Unfortunately, the reputational damage to our exclusive service is already being done.
Mountain Aviation prides itself on its unique operating experience and delivery of the most exclusive customer experience when flying into resort airports in the Rocky Mountains. We are providing our Customer Service Group and Pilots with additional customer relationship training on the FAA Ground Delay program so that the customer’s expectations for departure and arrival delays can be properly managed. Mountain Aviation will endeavor this holiday season to overcome the obstacles created by the FAA Ground Delay so that we may continue to provide exclusive aircraft charter experience expected by our customers.
– TJ Agresti
Mountain Aviation Pilot