Air Charter Service was founded in 1990 by Chris Leach, who had realized the need for a customer-centric aircraft charter company. The son of a pilot, Chris started Air Charter Service from the basement of his house. Less than three decades later, ACS arranges close to 10,000 charters each year, with a network of offices spread throughout North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Furthermore, its annual revenues are around a half-billion dollars.
Richard Thompson, originally from England, joined the ACS team in 2004 as Cargo Sales Director. He moved up in the ranks to Executive Vice President of North America, working out of the company’s New York office, in February 2013. A little over a year later, Richard became President of the Americas for the company.
Downtown had the pleasure of speaking with Richard about not only ACS, but flying private in general. He makes a great case as for why everyone should try it. More info on Richard and ACS can be found at www.aircharterserviceusa.com.
How did you wind up working with the New York Air Charter Service office? Did you know someone at the company?
Richard Thompson: I joined ACS in 2004 and worked within the London Cargo team. In Jan. 2011, our Chairman Chris Leach offered me the opportunity to move from the U.K. to New York and take over the Cargo Sales Director position. This was the second best decision I ever made — after asking my wife to marry me! I’ve never looked back.
What do you remember about the first time you ever flew privately?
RT: As I joined our Cargo Division, my first charter experience was on an old Russian cargo aircraft called the Antonov-26 moving freight for FedEx. The minute I set eyes on the aircraft in Ostend, Belgium — where it was based — I knew this was the job for me.
What sorts of planes does the company offer?
RT: We don’t own a fleet of aircrafts, so we are not tied to any particular aircraft type. We have access to around 50,000 aircraft worldwide, ranging from helicopters and private jets up to Antonovs and Boeing 747s.
Any surprising amenities that a person would find onboard one of the planes?
RT: On the older cargo aircraft, you’re lucky if there is a bathroom or hot water to make a coffee! On our Passenger Jet side, depending on the aircraft type, customers can enjoy all sorts of comforts like inflight wi-fi, personalized catering, media centers, etc.
How does a person go about reserving one of your planes? Do they just call?
RT: Calling or emailing are the most common ways to contact us. We’ll then present you with a few options, varying in price, timings, availability, etc.
Where are your plans? Does the company provide rides to the airport?
RT: While we don’t have a fleet of our own, we can arrange transport to the airport, hotels and even trips whilst you are at your destination.
What sets your company apart from other charter services?
RT: I’d like to think that is a combination of factors. Our specialists’ knowledge and exceptional customer service are what we have built the company up on, but now our size offers the financial security that others struggle to match. Also, with 20 offices around the globe, we’ll always have a local office to where you are, or where you’re going to.
Who is the average customer of your company? Executives? Celebrities? All walks of life?
RT: We get all walks of life using our services, but we do get a lot of celebrities, often A-list, and sports stars. Flying by private jet saves so much time that high-profile executives use jets to get to more than one meeting a day, or just to get home for the evening.
How many people work in your office? Who else is on the team there?
RT: We currently employ over 80 people across our North American offices, which are in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and Toronto. Our North American sales divisions are Cargo, Executive Jets, Commercial Jets and Hand Carry.
When not busy with the New York Air Charter Service, how do you like to spend your free time?
RT: My wife and I enjoy traveling, especially within the USA. Most recently we have fallen in love with Hawaii and have made several trips out there on vacation. New York is our new home and we enjoy everything the city has to offer.
Do you have a favorite restaurant near your office?
RT: One thing New York is not short of is restaurants. My two current favorites are John’s Pizzeria on Bleecker — this was the first New York pizza I ever had — and ABC Kitchen on 18th Street for their food, atmosphere and great cocktails.
Do you have tickets to any upcoming concerts or events in New York?
RT: Yes, we have tickets for the Coldplay concert this summer at the MetLife Stadium. We also attend the U.S. Open Tennis each year in Flushing.
Finally, Richard, any last words? Something to encourage others to put chartering a private jet on their bucket list?
RT: I think we have become numb to the excitement of air travel. Commercial flights almost feel like a commute. If it is within your budget to charter a private aircraft — you’d be surprised — try it and I think you’ll be reminded of how special flying actually is. Not to mention the tailored experience you’ll receive and more importantly the stress removed from the whole process. We have enough of that in life already!
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