By Karen Di Piazza
Geneva, Switzerland-based PrivatAir, parent company of PrivatAir Inc. in the U.S., is out to grow its private air charter and aircraft management business. There’s only one man for the job, as far as PA’s CEO Greg Thomas is concerned. Thomas said he has every faith that company insider Napo Hohn is the right man to run PAI.
“Napo brings a wealth of experience to the role, not just from his 20 years working at PrivatAir, but also from the aviation industry as a whole,” said Thomas. “I’m looking forward to working with him to further develop PrivatAir’s foothold in the U.S. market.”
PrivatAir runs shuttle services from Europe to the U.S. for Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines and Air France-KLM, operating 48-passenger configured Airbus A319LRs and Boeing Business Jets, along with 56-passenger BBJ2s. In spring 2003, PA took delivery of two A319s and began operating corporate shuttles for Airbus employees. Today, the company prides itself in offering ground services, aircraft management and aircraft sales and private charter. Additionally, the company said it manages a fleet of more than 50 aircraft, from a King Air turboprop up to a Boeing 757.
Thomas said Hohn, a graduate of Germany’s Johannes Gutenberg University who earned his master’s degree in political science and history, has expertise in both commercial and private aviation.
“Hohn has gained considerable experience of commercial aviation operations throughout Europe, the United States and the Middle East,” Thomas said.
During Hohn’s time with the company, he’s held various senior management positions, some of which he retains alongside his position as CEO of PAI. Prior to joining PA, Hohn worked on numerous security assignments throughout the private sector and contracted operations for governmental agencies.
PAI, headquartered at Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR), Stratford, Conn., acts as an agent for Flight Services Group Inc., an on-demand charter carrier, because the U.S. prohibits foreign-owned companies from owning/operating scheduled FAR Part 21 airlines or FAR Part 135 on-demand charter carriers. Hohn noted that the company’s air charter operations have grown since he was appointed CEO in mid-June. As of July 18, 29 aircraft were listed on FSG’s air carrier certificate, with a Challenger CL-604 and a Gulfstream GIV added to the fleet on June 26. Hohn said the company presently manages 42 turbine aircraft and plan to increase the fleet to include a Bell 407 helicopter.
“I have a passion for aviation and wish I had more time to fly helicopters,” he said.
Outside of his work environment, Hohn is equally ambitious. He’s a self-proclaimed “car nut,” with classic car races as his fancy. As a keen sportsman, he plays tennis and is trained in martial arts. A U.S. citizen and resident of Palm Beach, Fla., Hohn has homes in both Geneva and Gstaad.
Hohn’s new role as CEO entails ongoing development of all aspects of the company’s U.S. businesses. Outside of its headquarters at BDR, PAI has offices and aircraft bases at both Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) and New York’s Norwich Lt. Warren Eaton Airport (OIC).
“The biggest challenge in the general aviation industry is to provide continuous quality service,” he said.
Hohn acknowledged that in the GA industry when a CEO makes that statement, usually a string of mergers and acquisitions of fixed based operations follow. He says that won’t be the case for PAI.
“It may sound like a cliché, but I assure you it’s not,” he said. “Other companies are growing by mergers and acquisitions. However, we know the faster you grow, you run the risk of having to consolidate. We have no intentions of doing that. We’ll grow at a measured pace without sacrificing our core expertise. In today’s market, new private aviation companies are springing up everywhere. The GA market is saturated with businesses that claim to be experts in aviation; most of them are not experts. As a result, standards across the whole sector fall short and customers suffer the consequences.”
Hohn is pushing for greater synergy between the company’s U.S. and European operations, namely its sales teams. He said that’s one of several ways to grow the company’s charter sales and aircraft management services.
“We’re lucky to have personnel who are familiar with both European and American cultures,” says Hohn, who speaks seven languages. “In today’s business environment, this provides an important advantage in becoming a true global player.”
He said he aims to expand the company’s FBO maintenance and fuel sales, and he’s actively searching for a new vice president to head up the sales division. Additionally, he says the company is pursuing more business from Fortune 100 and 500 companies.
“PrivatAir Inc. is a quality-driven company; we plan to design new programs that cater to that target group,” vowed Hohn.
Hohn declined to elaborate on the company’s new programs and services at this time, stating that its operations are being evaluated. He said the company’s business strategy would remain focused on controlled growth and continued safety and security.
For more information, visit [http://www.privatair.com].