Most weekday mornings, Andrew Collins drives from his home in Needham to Braintree, where he works as president and CEO of Sentient Jet, one of the world’s largest private aviation companies. Founded in 1999, Sentient Jet invented the jet card model, which allows travelers to purchase a minimum of 25 hours of flight time on a hand-selected network of independent jet operators. Collins, who has a master’s degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, is Sentient Jet’s “chief evangelist” he says, laughing. “Essentially, my job is to make sure we’re all singing from the same sheet music. I have to set corporate strategy, I work on branding, I am the lead company spokesperson, and do a lot of client and partner visitations in the field.” The 47-year-old Red Sox fan recently shared the advantages of taking a jet, Sentient Jet’s typical Boston clients, and, for would-be-jet travelers, proper “jetiquette.” (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Q. How does the jet card work?
A. It’s a similar to companies like Uber and Airbnb in that in 1999 we figured out that there was excess capacity in the private jet space from corporate and ultra-high net worth owners of jets. So we certified 1,000 out of the 7,000 available private jets based on issues, such as quality of the planes and safety records, so our clients can fly on the best jets out there with the best operators (pilots and crew) drawing down against the card as they fly.
Q. Are there other jet card companies out there?
A. We invented it, but many people followed suit.
Q. How much the SJ card cost?
A. It starts at around $125,000 (for 25 hours of private jet flight time) and the average new client purchases a card of around $140,000.
Q. Who are your clients?
A. We have a base of about 5,000. Many of them are of extreme wealth or they’re corporate executives. About 6 to 7 percent hail from the Boston area. I can’t give names, but can tell you their walks of life — hedge fund investors, professional sport team owners, real estate magnates, and entrepreneurs (venture capital, technology, biopharmaceutical). We have a good chunk of celebrities on television and in film, as well as authors and athletes.
Q. Nature of their flights?
A. 60 percent fly for business and 40 percent for pleasure.
Q. Jet options?
A. Clients can choose either a light jet, which seats 5-6 passengers and has a range of about here to Chicago, a mid-size jet, which seats 7 people comfortably, a super-mid aircraft, which seats 8 to 9 passengers and can go across country or a large cabin or heavy aircraft, which can seat up to 15 passengers and go transatlantic.
Q. Advantages over flying commercially?
‘We have a good chunk of celebrities on television and in film.’
A. It’s mainly the efficiencies from wheels up to wheels down. Let’s use Boston to Cleveland for a lunch meeting and coming back the same day as an example, which I do all the time. For a commercial flight, I have to leave my house around 5 a.m. to catch 7:30 a.m. flight, having checked in and made it through security. I get to Cleveland around 9:30 a.m. Then, I have to pick up my rental car and drive to my meeting, which in my case, is usually 45 minutes away at a noncommercial airport. Say the meeting lasts for 1½ hours, I then have to get in my rental car, go back to my airport, return the car and wait for the next flight out. Some of them don’t leave until 6 p.m. So I’ve got a lot of dead time there. I leave at 6 p.m., land at 8 p.m., and arrive home around 10-10:30 p.m. Privately, I could leave my house at 10 a.m., drive 15 minutes over to Concord to Hanscom Field, where I’m going to get the jet. I can park my car, show my ID, and walk onto the jet. I land where I am having my meeting (at that smaller airport). After my meeting, I turn around and fly back and can probably pick my kids up from school at 3 p.m. and still feel refreshed.
Q. Can a client work directly with the operators that you use?
A. Yes, but they probably won’t get the same guarantees (Sentient Jet guarantees an available jet with only 10 hours advance notice) or the same pricing (it could be higher). We also work with a lot of partners to give clients what we call, “surprise and delights.” We give exclusive access to unique things, like for the Kentucky Derby, we’ve gained access for our clients to the Mansion (at Churchill Downs), a private viewing area usually off-limits to most people except for celebrities.
Q. Most popular destinations for Boston clients?
A. Nantucket, New York City, and Palm Beach.
Q. What about a weekend in Paris?
A. We do that, but jet aviation is really good for, say, a business person who lives in Boston and has several manufacturing plants across the country and needs to be in three different destinations in a day or it could be someone who is in finance and has to take a client and put them in front of five different banks in different parts of the country.
Q. Most unusual request?
A. We have a passionate, well-known individual that likes to save animals and we’ve brought baby bear cubs home on our jets to be put back into the wild or into a refuge.
Q. What’s jetiquette?
A. Just because you’re flying privately, it doesn’t mean you can be a Ninja. (You may or may not be traveling with the card holder.) You have to bring identification, it’s very rude to show up late, don’t over pack (jets have luggage and weight limitations), I typically wear business casual, you want to be gracious and grateful (to your host and the crew). Lastly, just because it’s private, doesn’t give you the excuse to get intoxicated and do crazy things on board.
Q. I read that people often bring a gift.
A. It’s the same thing as when people invite you over to a dinner party. We’ve seen anything from a bottle of wine to people returning the favor with dinners. In one case someone bought a rare book on a topic the client was into.
Q. Is food served?
A.If someone doesn’t order through catering we have a default selection of soft drinks and alcohol and snacks like KIND bars, high-end chocolates, chips, jarred nut selections.
Q. Any inflight entertainment?
A. Generally, most folks work.
Q. Your ideal jet destination?
A. I dream about taking a one-way trip to Greece.Victoria Abbott Riccardi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.