Fast Five: Airshare COO Alex Franz

Credit: Airshare

BCA Senior Editor Bill Carey spoke with Alex Franz, COO of private aviation services company Airshare about aviation preparations for Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 7 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s Super Bowl pits the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs—the home team for Lenexa, Kansas-based Airshare. The Chiefs are the reigning 2020 Super Bowl champions. What is the level of interest you have seen in flying to this year’s Super Bowl, and how does it compare with previous years?

We have a strong customer base in Kansas City and throughout the Midwest. Having quite a large customer base in our backyard and the Chiefs being in the Super Bowl last year and this year [helps]. We were extremely busy last year—the first time they went to the Super Bowl in recent history.

This year, I’m happy to say that we’re very busy. We have just about the same amount of trips booked [as in 2020] and that’s a little bit surprising to me, given the reduced number of ticket sales [for the game] this year. We’re still experiencing a strong number of bookings.

Which of Airshare’s programs—fractional, jet card or charter—are people choosing to get to Tampa?
It’s across the board; it’s a little bit of everything…We’re having a pretty easy time so far booking our slot reservations. With regard to hotels, the hotels seem to be as booked as they were last year. We haven’t had any problem finding hotels, but there is quite a bit of volume. 

To what would you attribute that interest? Is there pent-up demand for travel?
There are several factors. People are comfortable with the safety protocols that the National Football League and the airports and aircraft operators have put in place. We’ve got a lot of extensive COVID policies for our flight crew and for cleaning our aircraft. I think that’s one piece, but another piece for us is that we’ve seen our leisure travel actually increase over what it was a year ago. Our customer count has increased through COVID, but I think that is also indicative of people putting a premium on their time and taking those vacations that maybe they otherwise wouldn’t have.

How has Airshare been affected by the pandemic overall?
Charter has increased for us by about 50% or so over last year—it’s 150% of what it was. Business travel is still down, although it has been increasing every month. It’s in the neighborhood of 50% of what it was a year ago. But we feel that with that an increased customer count, we’re in a great position for when business travel comes back. With the sector in general, there are some people who were flying on airlines that were teetering on private or airline travel, and [the pandemic] pushed them into private.

Do you expect President Joe Biden's executive order requiring that airline passengers wear masks will apply to private aviation?
We’re monitoring that closely. So far, they have used the terminology ‘commercial aviation.’ If we’re talking to the FAA, we are a commercial operator. We’ll see when that gets better defined. That’s something we will be able to accommodate easily. We’re seeing that with quite a large number of our passengers anyway.

Update: Associations representing business aviation have advised that the federal mask mandate, which became effective on Feb. 1, applies to FBOs and Part 135 charter operators.

Bill Carey

Bill covers business aviation and advanced air mobility for Aviation Week Network. A former newspaper reporter, he has also covered the airline industry, military aviation, commercial space and unmanned aircraft systems. He is the author of 'Enter The Drones, The FAA and UAVs in America,' published in 2016.