Flight Time’s fall gives wings to a new venture

 - May 5, 2008, 10:17 AM

Two former charter representatives from now-defunct Flight Time have risen from the ashes of their former jobs to found a new charter-brokering business. Executive Charter Services, with offices in Boston, can trace its beginnings to the very day Flight Time closed its doors and declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leaving the charter industry shocked and, in many cases, out a lot of money in unpaid accounts receivable.

Brian Carr and Kevin Godlewski admit they were low on the totem pole at Flight Time, but they said they had established close relationships with 70 to 80 of Flight Time’s regular charter passengers and a number of charter operators. Carr told AIN, “On Friday morning, June 28, Kevin and I got the news that Flight Time was out of business and we had no jobs. That evening we discussed plans about forming a business of our own. We spent the weekend contacting attorneys and our customers, who all assured us that they had no arguments with the employees of Flight Time. They said we had always provided top service.”

Godlewski said, “We knew these people well. We knew their children’s names, where they went on vacation, all the particulars about how they liked to fly. We felt a connection with the customers.”

Both men said they had no direct involvement with Flight Time’s Freedom Plan, a separate department from their area, so-called ad hoc charter customers. Carr and Godlewski believe that the Freedom Plan contributed principally to the demise of Flight Time. “The Freedom Plan was a membership program where customers paid an up-front entry fee and prepaid for block hours of charter. In return, they paid only one-way costs with no deadhead charges. Flight Time needed critical mass to make it work, being able to have a wide base of customers who would likely fill the aircraft seats on return legs. In reality, a lot of the return trips came back empty, which had to cost Flight Time a lot of money.”

Carr and Godlewski estimate that Flight Time had 300 to 350 regular clients at the time it closed its doors. They have been in contact with about 70 of those clients and had arranged trips for about a dozen as of the middle of last month. They say they have received a positive response from 80 percent of the charter clients they contacted.

So how do charter aircraft operators feel about dealing with a pair of ex-Flight Time employees? Carr said, “We’ve had a fantastic relationship with the charter operators we’ve contacted. We have told them up front who we are and what we’re doing. We’ve also made it clear that we will pay up front for any charter flights. We get the money from the passengers before they fly, and they clearly understand our position and have no problems with that.”

Executive Charter Service could extend credit to customers later on, but for now it’s a cash-only business. Some charter vendors had negotiated volume discounts with Flight Time, and suffered the consequences when the company went under and they hadn’t met the agreed volumes. ECS is not currently negotiating volume discounts, although Carr and Godlewski said they do negotiate prices on a trip-by-trip basis.