aircraft on ramp
Part 135 operator Schubach Aviation is trying to build on a growing, younger charter client segment by hosting what its president, Kimberly Herrell, calls "experiential events." (Photo: Schubach Aviation)

Air Charter Attracting Younger Demographic

Operators are providing incentives and programs aimed at clients under 50.

San Diego–area air charter operator Schubach Aviation has seen the average age of its clients move lower, from 62 in 2015 to 56 at the end of 2019. “When we looked at the information, we realized we'd added more clients under age 40, which prompted us to look at the numbers and at our average age. And sure enough, every year it was slowly going down,” said Kimberly Herrell, owner and president of the 29-year-old firm.

“I wouldn’t say that older clientele are dropping off,” Herrell explained. “It’s just that more younger travelers are joining the demographic.”

The reasons for this aren't entirely clear to Herrell, but it could simply be that more younger people are wealthy. A Spectrem Group survey noted that, since 2014, the average age of U.S. investors with $25 million or more has dropped 11 years to 47.

Schubach is trying to capitalize on the trend through social media as well as through what it calls "Elevated Excursions," which include events such as group charters to Las Vegas for upscale shopping—or to Southern California's members-only Thermal Club for a day of driving Lamborghinis on the autocross tracks. Schubach also hosts client events at its facility at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California, such as a film screening last month where clients were able to meet the movie's producer.

Kenny Dichter—CEO of Wheels Up, one of the country's biggest charter and private aviation membership companies—has also noticed the trend toward a younger clientele. Wheels Up has been attracting these flyers by hosting parties with live entertainment at events such as the Super Bowl and with its relatively low-priced Connect membership program. Wheels Up’s presence on social media and on television, including ESPN College GameDay, helps as well, according to Dichter. So do Wheels Up Ambassadors—athletes such as Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, tennis star Serena Williams, and pro golfer Rickie Fowler. The company has also partnered with YouTube personalities. “We’re looking to market and expose private aviation to folks when they are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s,” he said. “We want them exposed to what private aviation can do for them."