Sentient sees better-than-average growth

 - May 31, 2011, 10:15 AM

During the past year national charter brokerage firm Sentient Jet grew by 30 percent in revenue and charter leg spaces sold, according to Marty Guinoo, CEO. Last year, he said, the overall charter market was flat or grew slightly, by about 5 percent. “A lot of it has to do with the aircraft you operate,” he explained. “In our business we didn’t see the deterioration of large-cabin fliers. If you were flying Gulfstream Vs in 2007 and 2008, chances are you still have the wealth to fly a GV today. The deterioration we’ve witnessed has come from light and midsize jets.”

Charter remains extremely competitive and there is a lot of excess capacity available because aircraft owners who can’t afford to sell their jets are trying to earn charter revenue. But lately, Guinoo said, “we’ve seen some tightening [of capacity]. Flying has a lot to do with confidence, so it tracks the stock market. We’re ahead of the curve and we rebounded faster than the stock market has rebounded.”

Sentient still offers guaranteed hours for charter aircraft, from 150 to more than 600 hours per year. Operators can join Sentient’s preferred network if they meet certain requirements. “Our demand has rebounded to the point that we’re looking for guarantees to fulfill,” Guinoo said, “primarily in the light and midsize categories. We have strong demand across all categories.”

While Sentient doesn’t have its own auditing team, its chief safety officer and safety board work with operators to determine whether they qualify to be Sentient-certified. “I’ve had plenty of operators ask me which standard to abide by,” he said. “But safety isn’t about passing an audit. Ours is a much more comprehensive and holistic view. It’s not just about checking boxes; it’s about our chief safety officer having a conversation with the [operator’s] chief pilot and director of operations and understanding which pilots they use, the history of the aircraft and the management team.” Sentient also approves of operators adopting a safety management system. “We spent the last eight years refining our approach to safety in conjunction with our independent safety board,” he said. “It isn’t just data-driven, but looks much more deeply into how an operation is run. We’ve always tried to be true partners with our operators.”

Guinoo pointed out another benefit for operators of working with Sentient. “It changes them from being regional to more of a national player. It’s allowing us to do the sales and marketing component of their business.”