Michael J. Silvestro

CEO, Flexjet and Flight Options Cleveland, Ohio

A marketing graduate from the University of Notre Dame, where he also played for the “Fighting Irish” football team, Silvestro went on to found several athletic footwear and personal products companies, whose merchandise was sold in thousands of retail outlets. After 18 years, he cashed out of those businesses and in 2000 accepted an invitation from Kenn Ricci, the Flight Options CEO and his former Notre Dame roommate, to help him market the fractional business. Both men left for a few years — Silvestro to CitationShares — but returned, with Silvestro becoming CEO of Flight Options in 2008 and assumed that role at Flexjet after its acquisition from Bombardier in 2013.

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Will Flexjet and Flight Options continue as distinctly separate operations?

Silvestro: We’re still working through that. It’s a sensitive issue because we have lots of folks working in both locations. Since acquiring Flexjet, we’ve combined the organizations where it made the most sense. We started in the back of the house, the areas of the business where it didn’t affect the customers, such as the IT department, finance and HR. And we just recently got on the same operating platform. We’ll look for other opportunities where we can bring the companies together, but we want to make sure we don’t miss a beat with regards to customer service on both sides of the house. So, the last part of the business that might be integrated, with the exception of the pilot groups, would be the customer service people. 

Why except the pilots?

Silvestro: I don’t want to presuppose that the pilot groups will never be merged, but the Flight Options pilots are part of a union and the Flexjet group is not. So, that’s not in our control, that would be in the pilots’ control if they chose to do something like that. There has been some migration from the Flight Options group to the Flexjet group primarily because the new aircraft are going there, so that’s where there’s more growth opportunity from the pilots’ point of view.

All the new aircraft are going to Flexjet only?

Silvestro: We have orders and options pending for over 200 aircraft, including Phenom 300s, Learjet 75s, Challenger 350s, Gulfstream 450s, 500s and 650s. The  plan is to market all of the new aircraft at Flexjet. We’re placing them under our boutique moniker of Red Label, which we’re launching in September. Under that program, all the aircraft will be five years old or younger. Also, each aircraft type will have the same layout, but also unique features such as custom interior palettes and thoughtfully placed enhancements for comfort, and each aircraft will have a dedicated crew. Additionally, only fractional owners can use them; no jet cards will apply.

Both Flexjet and Flight Options have been North American-centric operationally. Is that changing?

Silvestro: Absolutely. Our customers really want to go to more international destinations. We see a lot of growth potential around the world. Certainly, North America will always be the mainstay, but we see great growth opportunity really in the emerging markets. And to accommodate, this fall we’ll be unveiling our Global Access program.  Traditionally in our business the hourly rates are linear, so the eighth hour in flight costs the same as the first hour in flight. But in reality, the first hour is a lot more expensive to provide operationally. Under Global Access, our fractional customers can add on this feature that is stage-length priced. On long trips the hours will be averaged out, making them much more affordable than if it was just a straight linear price.

As a member of the Fighting Irish, I’ll bet you’ve seen the movie, “Rudy.”

Silvestro: Actually, I knew Rudy Ruettiger himself. He graduated the year ahead of me, but stayed on as graduate assistant. I was one of only two walk-on players in my freshman class, and Rudy hand been a walk-on as well. So, he sort of took me under his wing. I played safety all four years. But just like Rudy, I was on the prep team, so I didn’t see much play time. We won the 1977 National Championship. That was really something special.

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