Best Of The Best 2006: Sentient Jet
Sentient’s Jet Membership program has tripled in the 22 months that CEO Steve Hankin has occupied the pilot’s chair, so it is not surprising that people tend to listen to him. “The commercial experience continues to worsen,” he observes, “while people have more money and want to go farther afield. As one of the top charter-club operators, we’re in a great position to serve them.”
Customers are keen on Sentient’s two-tier membership program, which has all the simplicity of a debit card. Members deposit $100,000 or $250,000 in an account (the balance is fully refundable at any time), and Sentient deducts members’ hourly costs as they fly. They choose from more than 900 planes, from a Citation Ultra to a Gulfstream IV-SP, and Sentient guarantees delivery within 10 hours. Prices range from $2,500 to $9,800 per hour, with no added maintenance or positioning costs.
Sentient does not own the jets it flies, but Hankin notes that it remains “determined to be on the cutting edge of safety in our business. Because of our size, we’ve evolved into a company where the jets you charter are only used by us. And we’ve taken unique steps to ensure that those planes are perfectly maintained.” For example, Hankin has formed the Sentient Jet Safety Advisory Board, chaired by Dave Thomas, former director of the Office of Accident Investigation for the Federal Aviation Administration. The board, which also includes former FAA administrator Jane Garvey, reviews all accidents in the industry and reports back to Hankin with any information that would be relevant to Sentient’s operations. “We wanted an external forum, something like the National Transportation Safety Board,” he notes. “We want our clients to interact with us on safety issues, and with the board if need be.”
Sentient also has developed partnerships to add value for its clients. One such collaboration is with Pebble Beach, which gives Sentient members opportunities to play golf at the resort’s courses and attend events such as the Concours d’Elegance and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am. Touting a similar venture involving the Aspen Skiing Co., Hankin says, “Sentient members have unique access to some of the best resorts in the world.”