Meet Jeremi Austin of Jet It Canada: breaking barriers

Avatar for Jeremi AustinBy Jeremi Austin | December 1, 2021

Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 18 seconds.

As seen in Skies’ In the Jumpseat column (Oct/Nov issue)

As decorum suggests, I should introduce myself first. But that’s the only traditional thing about this story. My name is Jeremi Austin, and I’m the Canadian managing director for the private aviation company, Jet It. That is something I never thought I’d say over 20 years ago when I was working in print media and publications. And never did the aviation industry think a hybrid-fractional ownership model would exist, allowing people to fly privately for a third of the cost. But here we are today, disrupting the norm.

Of course, novel ideas come from moments of unforeseen inspiration. For me, that was a suggestion from my wife to get flying lessons. I can remember sitting with her near the Harbour in Vancouver, watching the planes fly overhead, and being completely fascinated. But I didn’t think much more about it until she made the suggestion. At first, I thought the idea was crazy… but she pushed me a little bit. So, I finally took a couple of flying lessons; I remember the first one very clearly.

Jeremi Austin is the managing director of a Canadian private aviation company that’s disrupting the norm with a hybrid-fractional ownership model. Annie Vogel Photo

As soon as we were off the ground, the instructor said, “OK, you’ve got control of the aircraft.” I looked over at him and said, “No way.” But, at the same time, I put my hands on the controls, and in that instance, I was hooked. That first lesson turned into flight training in Vancouver and Ontario, where I made connections with an aircraft company that offered me a job. That serendipitous offer turned my love of recreational aviation into a career.

I went on to a few sales and business development roles at various aviation companies. And, after earning my MBA from London, Ontario’s Ivey Business School in 2014, I helped drive the growth of new HondaJet aircraft sales. That’s where another fortuitous connection would be made. This time, it was with Glenn Gonzales, who later founded Jet It in 2018.

Like me, Glenn took his passion for flying and turned it into a career. But he took it even further by transforming the industry and creating an aviation business model never seen before. Owners can purchase one-tenth to half of an aircraft with the fractional program and have an aircraft available for an entire day, while only paying for the time the plane is in use. So, you’re looking at hourly rates of around C$2,200 versus C$6,000 or more. 

Now, I’ve been in the industry since the late ‘90s and have never seen a product offering quite like this; it breaks down the barriers to entry. Travelers can suddenly get all the benefits, like privacy and security of private aviation, at a lower cost. This is something that became immensely important amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Initially, there was a considerable reduction in commercial aviation service; those who needed to travel to run businesses turned to private aviation. That opened their eyes to the possibilities, especially with an option like Jet It. So, when the opportunity arose to help launch Jet It Canada earlier this year, I was thrilled.

I had stayed in touch with Glenn and was very interested to hear how, amidst the Covid crisis, he made a transformational decision regarding an order of new jets to significantly expand the company’s fleet. What’s more, the exponential growth and success of Jet It has been turned into a business case study at Harvard University. Essentially, it explores how a company should approach such strategic capacity expansions given significant uncertainty in demand, as well as a broader discussion around growth strategy and the scalability of Jet It’s business model and operating system.

As a market, there’s a ton of opportunity. There’s a large audience here wanting privacy and safety — both pre- and post-pandemic — and Canada is a spread-out country with many unserved communities. This is a game-changer in terms of what’s possible in business.

With Jet It, the aircraft is available for the day with no re-position fees, fuel surcharge, or landing fees, and executives can visit multiple job sites across Canada and the U.S. — which is especially useful in remote destinations without commercial access. I have one client who said having access to this model has expanded his customer base because he can now visit remote communities.

Plus, these executives can still be home in time for dinner. And if there was one other important lesson that we all learned during the pandemic, it’s that time with loved ones is precious. Jet It is a company that can create time with travel.

It’s surreal to think that my daydreaming about planes has turned into this successful career in aviation. The demand for Jet It has been phenomenal. The U.S. has sold out, and we’re on a similar trajectory for Jet It Canada. The all-HondaJet North American fleet will be growing in 2022. Another three or four aircraft will join the Canadian fleet, specifically, next year.

What’s more, private aviation is changed forever. Once more people realize what’s possible with a model like ours, the opportunity for growth is limitless.

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