Viewpoint: It’s Mobile Technology’s Time to Soar in Private Aviation

This year especially, Sentient Jet has learned a lot about health, hygiene, and catering to the needs of clientele in times of extreme stress. We have also learned a great deal about the importance of offering customers technology to book flights seamlessly. Looking at the numbers, I can say that mobile technology is now the future of private aviation--and if your outfit isn’t on board yet, it should get there fast.
Sentient Jet originally launched its mobile app in 2017 and designed it to be simple and elegant to ensure it would lessen the friction of the customer journey. This was particularly important when considering the average age of our customer demographic, which ranges from the late 50s to early 60s. We understand that jumping on the latest technology isn’t easy for everyone and making such big transactions via an app can be daunting, which is also why we prioritized educating our customers first.
Following its debut, the app performed well, racking up $125 million in bookings over its first three years as it enabled customers to arrange flights with a tap of a button.
Jump ahead to 2020 and the start of the pandemic. According to a May 2020 piece from McKinsey & Company, data has revealed that society “vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.” During the pandemic, businesses transitioned to digital to offer locked-down consumers the means to work remotely, make flexible payment arrangements for mortgages, order groceries for delivery, visit their doctors and grandparents, and even school their children.
In keeping with this trend, Sentient Jet’s mobile bookings have accelerated dramatically over the past 12 months. In fact, we recently reached $100 million in total mobile transactions--over $50 million of which was solely from 2020. We are also projecting that 25% of total sales in 2021 will come from mobile transactions. Considering just a few years ago that percentage was in the single digits – and prior to that, no digits at all – I’m convinced what we’re seeing isn’t merely the result of convenience, but an organic adoption and shift by our customers toward mobile.
There was a time when I could tell people that Sentient Jet offered a mobile app and they’d be impressed. Today, mobile technology is pervasive. Everyone uses it, and as the success we’ve experienced with our app has shown, they will even use it for private transactions ranging from $10,000 to $300,000. 
Sentient Jet isn’t the only private aviation company to offer a mobile app, of course. Some have seen success with apps, while others introduced apps for the sake of keeping up with the trend, without being thoughtful about how to maintain the app long-term. I believe that the key for mobile apps in private aviation is to focus simply on what the consumer wants and overall, to simplify booking a flight. 
While the main purpose of Sentient Jet’s mobile app is to book flights, customers can also use our app to access a range of exclusive benefits that we offer our Jet Card owners. For example, they can receive push notifications when they reach their destination that will perhaps invite them to a partner hotel where the bartender will happily pour them a glass of champagne, on us.
Having a tool like mobile technology is particularly beneficial right now as private aviation has been transformed from a luxury to a utility because of the pandemic. During the pandemic, clients tapped us because they knew they could book contactless, pull right up to their aircraft, and be on their way. Clearly, this is a better alternative than having to risk crowded airports and hundreds of unavoidable exposure points on commercial flights.
Combined with communications technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, private aviation has become a tool in its own right by offering flyers the flexibility to safely run their business, connect with family, access medical treatment, or just indulge in a much-needed change of scenery. 
So, my message to private aviation companies? It’s time to take flight on mobile technology. The world is evolving in such a way that what was once a novelty is becoming definitive, and if you’re not there, you’re probably going to get passed by.
Andrew Collins is the president and CEO of Sentient Jet, a leading private aviation company, with a client base of more than 8,000 Jet Card owners. An integral part of Directional Aviation, Sentient Jet has offices in Boston, Cleveland and London.