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Jet Linx is the first private aviation company to launch a landmark partnership with Forbes Travel Guide, taking service to new heights.

 

“This partnership is a game changer for private aviation and will create a necessary benchmark for the industry,” said Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide (FTG). “Our 60-plus years of expertise with standards, inspections and training lends itself not just to hospitality, but to every industry that wants to cultivate an excellent service culture, so we are excited to support Jet Linx in its path to even greater success.”

“Our industry has extensive regulatory and operational standards for companies to comply with, but it has never set a customer service standard — until now,” said Jet Linx President and CEO Jamie Walker. “Our groundbreaking partnership with Forbes Travel Guide will transform the private jet travel industry and set an unrivaled standard of service excellence for our clients; the same service excellence they’ve come to expect from the finest Five-Star hotels, restaurants and spas around the world.”

The collaboration marks the first time that FTG has worked with a private aviation company to promote service excellence on a holistic level. For the partnership’s first phase, FTG will comprehensively assess and train all Client Services team members in Jet Linx’s 18 Base terminal locations, including its National Operations Center in Omaha, Nebraska, both with regard to pre-flight and post-flight standards. All Jet Linx flight crews also will undergo this process, but with FTG’s customized inflight standards. Both companies will work together to craft unique, proprietary standards.

And to ensure that every team member embraces and consistently upholds FTG’s standards of service excellence, Jet Linx will have FTG reevaluate and retrain all client services and flight personnel on an ongoing basis.

This deep commitment to service excellence prompted FTG to name Jet Linx as the first Exclusive Official Private Aviation Company of Forbes Travel Guide. The honor means Jet Linx joins FTG’s Brand Officials, an invitation-only group that represents the top service and amenity providers for different segments of the hospitality industry. The Brand Officials program spotlights companies that FTG deems as notable and worthy of endorsement.

“We are a company that is dedicated to luxury travel, from the most outstanding hotels in the world, to fine-dining restaurants, to over-the top spas, so it’s a natural fit that we would team up with the best of the best in private aviation,” said Jeff Wielgopolan, FTG’s Senior Vice President of Learning & Development. “Forbes Travel Guide has a global reputation for rating the world’s elite, extraordinary properties, so in partnering with a private aviation company, we really wanted to find one that stood out in terms of product and in service.” According to Wielgopolan, this partnership will set Jet Linx apart from other private aviation providers because the group will be exposed to a global expectation of service. “Forbes Travel Guide standards really focus on how a guest, member or flyer feels. Our standards are based on emotional intelligence, professionalism and consistency,” he said. “The training will identify how the simplest of actions make the guest feel and how to lead to greater impact.”

While Jet Linx already adopts a customer-focused model, Wielgopolan says that FTG will further instill a particular service culture mindset. “Our training program is not prescriptive—there’s no workbook, no cookie-cutter set of standards that we apply to all industries. Guests are looking for experiences, and those should be unique and most importantly, consistent. Consistency drives not only guest satisfaction, but also trust. We teach staff a specific way of thinking: how to think like a luxury guest. To pay attention to the details. To anticipate and think one step ahead of every want and need. To be friendly, warm and considerate. To be professional at all times yet approachable and engaging.”

DECODING FTG’S SERVICE STANDARDS

 

The FTG requirements are wideranging, with some standards focusing on personalization, such as being anticipatory and thinking a step ahead for the guest. Others are more obvious signs of luxury, such as fresh flowers in your guest room and high-quality furniture and linens. All standards fall into nine classifications: elements of luxury; guest comfort and convenience; graciousness, thoughtfulness and sense of personalized service; courtesy and manners; food and beverage quality; cleanliness and condition; staff appearance; efficiency; and technical skill, knowledge and execution.

The first four listed above are identified as high-impact classifications, and they play a much stronger role in how guests feel about their experience. “A guest is more likely to recall a positive reaction when the team thought to offer some sunscreen and an umbrella at the pool, over the uniform selection,” she said. “Both are equally important when delivering service at this level, since all things should be consistent and nothing seem out of place. However, the guest is more likely to remember how you made them feel, so in turn, our system allows more credit when those high-impact standards are met at a particularly high level.”

“One of the hardest classifications to deliver property wide is graciousness, thoughtfulness and sense of personalized service,” Frasier said. These standards address the sense of individualized attention, care, concern and the ability to anticipate guest needs. “This becomes the most interesting behavior for us to observe. It truly shows the guest the culture of a hotel and lets the personality of the property shine through. Staff can be trained how to be efficient, they can learn how to successfully operate the property management system, but you must have an instinct for being intuitive in a way that is natural and not forced or robotic.”

She added that FTG reviews its standards annually to ensure the requirements and their application remain in line with what is happening in the industry and that they take into account cultural sensitivities. In FTG’s Star Rating universe, the Five-Star award is coveted but elusive: only 20 percent of all rated properties achieve the company’s top distinction (in 2019, the Five-Star winners include 209 hotels, 68 restaurants and 64 spas). “Our system is heavily weighted toward service, so when a property is able to execute that consistently, this establishes a stronger sense of comfort for the guest, and in turn allows a property to rise higher in our awards system,” Frasier said. “When we speak of consistency, it’s not simply that your bed presentation is the same each day, or that your eggs Benedict tastes the same every time you order it. It also is deeply tied to staff members’ behavior. The words they choose to use will be consistent with the physical surroundings, and how they think will be well-orchestrated and rehearsed, but not appear scripted. A Five-Star experience is going to feel virtually flawless, in that it was comfortable and you felt at ease and never hovered over.”

To illustrate this, Frasier points to the behind-the-scenes work to move luggage from the car to the guest room. While it involves multiple people and steps, to the guest, the luggage appeared in closet, right way up, zipper facing forward, as if by magic. The guest didn’t have to ask, wonder or worry at any time where the items were.

“This said, hospitality is a very human business, and things go wrong. Our standards do not automatically penalize a hotel when disaster strikes, but the art of the recovery can be a positive aspect of the guest experience, too,” she said. “Our standards and evaluation process are not designed to catch the hotels out, but rather to catch them at their best and give everyone a chance to shine.”

FTG’s thorough, service-first approach has earned much respect among the hospitality community. “Forbes Travel Guide is the only legitimate institution that establishes the criteria of service excellence in hospitality,” said Ali Kasikci, President and CEO of Bentley Management, who oversaw the opening of the new Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito, California.

Properties also have reaped benefits from the ratings. “When you achieve that Five-Star status, you’re able to demand higher rates. You’re able to grow your occupancy, and it certainly translates into greater results. And for the employees, it’s a wonderful badge of honor… We’ve seen an uptick in morale, camaraderie [and] teamwork,” said Hermann Elger, Managing Director and COO of Bacarrat Hotels & Resorts.

Properties also have reaped benefits from the ratings. “When you achieve that Five-Star status, you’re able to demand higher rates. You’re able to grow your occupancy, and it certainly translates into greater results. And for the employees, it’s a wonderful badge of honor… We’ve seen an uptick in morale, camaraderie [and] teamwork,” said Hermann Elger, Managing Director and COO of Bacarrat Hotels & Resorts.

MOVING BEYOND HOTELS

 

While FTG may be the arbiter of luxury hotels, restaurants and spas, its same principles apply to any service-oriented industry. FTG has worked with luxury residential, healthcare, private clubs and cruises on bespoke training solutions, evaluation services and the creation of custom service standards. Now, FTG brings more than 60 years of hospitality experience as well as tested approaches to standards, evaluations and hotel training to the private aviation industry.

“When developing service standards, we first have to truly understand the organization. Whether it is a hotel, spa, restaurant or private aviation company, it is of most importance that we comprehend their internal culture, values, talent management and general long-term and short term goals,” Wielgopolan said. “The development and implementation of service standards is not simply writing the standards. Service standards for an organization set the level of guest expectations, define accountability, drive consistency and outline the job duties for the team.”

FTG begins the development process with an on-site consultation to spend time with the company. However, before this meeting, members of FTG’s standards development division are already at work putting themselves in the client’s shoes. They call to inquire, look at the company’s online presence, read reviews and articles.

“We want to reflect on the language that is used in the organization, their grooming and appearance, the leadership styles and general hospitality,” he said. After this, FTG connects its principles of courtesy and manners, graciousness and thoughtfulness along with the outline for the particular company journey and incorporates elements of luxury. He added, “This is where our expertise comes in, and at times we go back to our client and make recommendations to elevate the service levels or simply change the amenities or snacks.”

“At the end, luxury service comes down to not making the guest think, but instead to just show up and enjoy,” Wielgopolan said. “The difference at Jet Linx is the members and owners pay just to be able to pick up the phone and fly, so the stakes for getting it right are just a little higher.”

“In 20 years of business, we have prided ourselves on our customer-first mentality, a way of doing business that is bolstered by our industry unique, locally-focused model,” noted Walker. “Our partnership with Forbes Travel Guide, and the development of our proprietary Jet Linx training standards, represents the first step in the next 20 years, as we continue to refine our services and redefine what it means to experience excellence in private aviation.”