Forget the suits: Beyond executives, business jets fly families, pets, and even NASA equipment.

Corporate executives are not the only occupants of business jets. While many private jets have Fortune 500 owners, another 2,100 operators in the United States provide on-demand charter flights to small-business owners, families, and even beloved pets. Charter flights are just as likely to drop off a family of four into one of 5,000-plus small airports not served by commercial airlines as they are to ferry blue-suited lobbyists to Washington, DC.

“We have many clients who don’t necessarily fit the traditional corporate profile, including extended families and pets,” says Bradley Stewart, CEO of XOJet, one of the largest private-aviation companies in the United States. “Our fleet has been used for many types of missions, from flying family members of a client who had been in a serious accident to transporting equipment for the Mars rover. We have so many client profiles that our jets see multiple uses.”

XOJet owns and operates the nation’s largest floating fleet of Citation X and Challenger 300 super-midsize business jets. Ownership gives the San Francisco–based company full operational control over maintenance, safety, and crew, something only the largest fractional providers have over their fleets. XOJet, however, also opted for a charter business model that provides flexibility for clients, including no heavy capital commitments and a no-questions-asked refund policy.

“We adopted this model to avoid the five-year commitments and rigid ownership burdens of fractional ownership,” says Stewart. “But we were able to design a safety infrastructure that far exceeds most other charter firms while also surpassing FAA safety requirements. We see this as the best of both worlds.” XOJet clients often use the fleet of jets for both work-related and family activities. “We might have a client who flies from San Francisco to Dallas for a business meeting and then heads to one of their homes in Aspen for the weekend,” says Stewart. “We find that the typical client usage patterns aren’t cut-and-dry.”

The company, however, goes to great lengths to make each trip memorable. “Our clients live incredibly busy lives,” says Shari Jones, XOJet’s chief marketing officer. “When they are planning a family getaway, we know every minute counts. Besides special catering requests, we might place city guides and children’s travel books onboard the plane so they can start their vacation before takeoff.”

The transporting of pets also tends to be memorable, though in a lighter sense. “We even go so far as to include pet names on our passenger manifest,” says Jones. “For many clients, a key benefit of flying privately is that they can share the experience with their pets—something you just can’t do on a commercial flight.”

This client-friendly approach is part of XOJet’s philosophy of “making it personal,” says Stewart. “We really do try to get to know them as people rather than clients,” he says. “The only way to do that is by redefining customer service. We empower our crew to make unofficial purchases like travel guides or birthday cakes—things that will turn a routine flight into a special trip.”

XOJET, 650.676.4700, www.xojet.comAdvertisement