The Uber-Secretive Private Jet Company Hollywood Has on Speed Dial A look at how stars, scions and heads-of-state travel like no one else.
It's no secret that commercial flying has reached an all-time low. The United incident—when a paying passenger was violently dragged off a plane to make room for United staff—and the British Airways IT glitch that left 75,000 travelers stranded over a holiday weekend are just the tip of the iceberg of weekly inconveniences travelers endure.
Curious about how billionaires, rock stars, producers, heads-of-state, and the otherwise uber-wealthy and mega-famous traveled, we started digging into the private aviation industry.
After making a few calls, the name of one company kept popping up in conversation: M2Jets. One source said, "They're the buzz company in Hollywood when it comes to flying privately."
This was intriguing: in a world of dazzle, the company's website design looks outdated, and they don't have an app. We wanted to discover why.
We tried to contact M2Jets multiple times but were unable to get their CEO, Moshe Malamud, on the phone because of his whirlwind schedule. Turns out that ushering around society's most successful is a 24/7 gig.
Ironically, we later bumped into Malamud backstage at the recent Billboard Awards in Las Vegas. With his outgoing personality, it was immediately apparent how he has so many celebrities in his back pocket.
Though he was in deep conversation with billionaire Mark Cuban, we managed to pull him aside for five minutes for his take on private aviation and what is required to deliver a high-end "white-glove service."
Malamud started by stressing the importance of meeting people's needs. "Commercial air travel just doesn't address the needs of busy executives," he explained with a thick New York accent.
"Our clients operate on tight time schedules. They can't afford to be handcuffed by commercial travel restrictions. Transporting valuable cargo means understanding that every minute is precious. Every aspect of their experience must be perfect."
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a record 3.7 billion passengers traveled by air in 2016. But dissatisfaction with commercial flying has never been higher.
Complaints against airline companies soared by 30 percent in 2015—a 15-year high, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The criticism was aimed at issues like delays, cancellations, hidden fees, and poor service: all part of the common flying experience.
If you'd like to complain, think twice before wasting your time: many major American carriers note in their company policies that it could take up to two months for complaints to even be acknowledged, let alone resolved.
After spending over a decade traveling on private jets across the world for business—sometimes paying upward of $40,000 for a trip—Malamud found that the quality of service was unexceptional. He decided to offer a premium alternative. As he put it, "I got tired of mediocrity." Now his clients get top planes at a moment's notice and no long lines or hassles with airport security, flight cancellations, or soul-crushing airport amenities.
Instead, clients command when the pilot should take off and instruct the flight attendants when service is required. There are no annoying announcements shouting fairytale rules preventing them from finishing an urgent call or sending an important text.
Malamud wouldn't reveal the travel itineraries, deals, and conversations that occur at 41,000 feet, nor the identities of the firm's A-list clients. But he explained one commonality of the people in his virtual Rolodex: they don't care about cost—only security, luxury, and exclusivity.
Former NFL player Bret Lockett, M2Jet's senior partner, later explained, "Playing in the NFL with the likes of Tom Brady, you get exposed to a particular kind of lifestyle. You understand what real luxury looks like."
The old-school website was starting to make sense. Uber-wealthy clients don't have time to hassle with online forms, apps, and customer support numbers. They just want a plane that's ready to fly after sending a text message to someone like Lockett.
Malamud espoused the importance of treating your clients like family, getting a feel for their tastes, and engineering situations that will delight them. Basically: over-deliver, and do it extravagantly.
Such decadence could involve providing an abundance of food from a client's favorite restaurant on the flight or preparing their penthouse suite precisely to their liking. "Sometimes what we do seems unnecessary, but clients appreciate it," Malamud said.
"We set the bar extremely high. Your standards soon become other people's expectations," Lockett added.
This approach is good for clients and business. The company does a yearly revenue in the tens of millions of dollars thanks almost entirely to referrals.
Malamud explained that when you deliver elegant, immaculate service and pay attention to the smallest details, your name gets passed around very quickly. "Extremely wealthy individuals and high-end celebrities want the best of the best."
Surprisingly, Malamud revealed that the private aviation industry has brokers and operators who've never flown on a private jet in their lives. The consequence is that multimillionaires and billionaires rely on people who are completely inexperienced.
This creates obvious problems. Clients are stood up on the tarmac with their families and friends by brokers who overpromise. Old, worn-out planes break down and cause delays, costing business deals, credibility, and reputations. The conventional private jet charter process is, quite simply, a mess.
Some companies push fractional ownership on clients, which can cost more in the long run, or operate expensive membership schemes. Another company connects its members to unused seats on planes for a fee. M2Jets works on a pay-as-you-fly basis.
"Too many competing services pretend at luxury, then nickel-and-dime customers," said Malamud. "They're essentially commercial airlines that fly 10 to 30 people instead of 270."
"The entire experience of private air travel has been on a decline. A shared jet may be more economical, but it's not a private jet," he added. "Not anymore."
Given M2Jets' success so far, their approach to business seems to have wings.
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