ADI taps the potential of the corporate shuttle

 - August 11, 2008, 9:02 AM

“This is about changing the entrepreneurial spirit,” Brad Bruce, flight department manager of ADI Corporate Shuttle Services, told AIN. “By minimizing or eliminating many of the barriers to travel, corporate shuttles allow business opportunities to be more readily considered and acted upon. Business cultures and their strategies change as markets, facilities and customers in other, often rural areas of the country–once practically unreachable and thus unconsidered– are newly accessible.”

Bruce said ADI has operated and managed corporate shuttles using various business aircraft for Du Pont, General Motors, Global Crossing of North America and Dow Chemical since 1985. “In 2000, at the urging of some of our customers, we began looking at the possibility of a corporate shuttle using larger aircraft,” he said. “What we discovered was a substantial need by various corporations to move groups of 30 employees and more between major business centers that are not served, or are underserved, by the airlines.”

ADI received FAR Part 121 certification in June and is operating a Fokker F28-4000 out of its Oakland County International Airport (PTK), Mich. base for its launch customer, Dow Chemical of Midland, Mich. According to Bruce, Dow develops the schedule based on its business requirements. “Currently, we’re doing an early-morning quickturn three days a week to the Gulf Coast of Texas,” he said. “They have connecting flights that meet our aircraft. In addition, based on their schedule requirements, two days a week we remain on the ground all day and return in the evening.”

According to Bruce, what ADI offers its customers is the ability to set and change schedules, set up interdepartment charge-back systems, select specific in-flight services such as meals and even initially specify the aircraft’s interior layout. “We can provide any sort of amenity our client wants,” he explained. “We enter into a contract with the company up front that enables us to go out and make the capital investment required. Obviously, the contract has to make sense based on their proposed amount of usage and the length of the contract itself to justify what they want in terms of configuration of the aircraft.

“With respect to the cost structure per route, it is important to understand that this isn’t like doing charter. Each route is contracted separately with each customer based on how they want the aircraft appointed, the fuel costs for the area, catering costs and other variables,” Bruce said. “We use NBAA’s Travel$ense software for planning, and we’ve found that on remote or hard-to-reach locations we often beat airline first-class fares by about 25 percent. Of course, if you’re going from one major hub to another it’s a somewhat different story, but the fact remains that we’ll save you a substantial amount in travel costs and lost productivity through private jet service.”

Bruce explained that regardless of the route, ADI helps a company maximize control over employee travel. “We provide the peace of mind that results from complete company control over the flight schedule, aircraft configuration, airports of operation, in-flight services and company travel policies. For many companies, the protection of personnel from uncontrolled public exposure alone is justification for a corporate shuttle. Avoiding eavesdropping, reducing travel visibility, eliminating unwanted and unnecessary conversations and interruptions, all support the use of a corporate shuttle to safeguard company employees and the sensitive information they carry.

“Another benefit is the ability to reschedule flights if weather, mechanical or other considerations suggest it is the appropriate course,” Bruce said. “The scheduling flexibility inherent in corporate shuttles can be a powerful asset. As aircraft can arrive and depart on the company’s work schedule, senior management can plan and change flight schedules to best suit their business needs while maximizing employee productivity. Overnight trips can also be avoided. If managed proactively, this benefit can improve results.”

ADI provides all aircraft-related services. The company has three crews assigned to the F28. Every crew has a full-time mechanic on board every flight who does pre- and post-flight inspections and other calendar items. The aircraft has a flyaway spares kit on board that significantly increases schedule reliability. According to Bruce, the mechanic also ensures that ground servicing is being done properly. “A lot of FBOs know all about a Gulfstream or a Learjet, but that’s not always the case when it comes to an F28,” he said. “It just helps to have him there.

“Being a Part 121 operator, we have a healthy MEL list, so we’re able to schedule our maintenance pretty far in advance,” Bruce said. “For instance, we’ll schedule maintenance during large holiday sessions when the company is likely to stand down, such as at Christmas. We do our primary inspections at those times.”

In addition, ADI has an agreement with Pace Airlines. “They’re operating about 20 Boeings on vacation and sports-team charters,” Bruce said. “We have an agreement that covers our aircraft. If it goes down for maintenance, Pace will dispatch one of its aircraft to cover us. We have a similar reciprocal agreement with them.”

ADI has also worked extensively with the TSA on the Private Charter Standard Security Program mandated by the agency. “Because ADI dedicates its TSA-regulated security personnel and customer-service agents to the corporate shuttle operations, customers are assured the most convenient and timely check-in and screening times possible,” Bruce said.

“We have our own TSA-trained ground-support people at both ends for the shuttle. If we have an ad hoc charter to somewhere we normally don’t go, we bring along a shuttle manager who can conduct security screening wherever we go. We have an onboard metal detector, tables and equipment we can set up anywhere,” he said. “Our flight-release process also checks against the TSA no-fly list. The customer’s manifest provided to us is immediately checked when we get it before departure. In the event the company sends a walk up, they have to present specific identification and we call it in to our dispatcher, who will check it via computer.”

Bruce said the company’s business plan calls for the addition of four or five similarly sized aircraft over the next few years. “We’re not interested in scheduled airline service at all,” he said. “We are strictly dedicated to this type of operation, focusing on Fortune 500 companies.”

ADI began in 1959 as a full-service FBO and continues to offer FBO services, including aircraft maintenance, charter, flight management, aircraft sales and interiors. The company has operated aircraft under flight management since 1981 and has been offering Part 135 charter since 1989.