Sparrow Executive Jets President Jacquie Dalton (credit: Sue Barr)
Sparrow Executive Jets President Jacquie Dalton (credit: Sue Barr)

Sparrow Executive Jets President Jacquie Dalton

A charter broker talks about her early years, her business aviation experiences, and her by-invitation-only client base.

New Jersey–based charter broker Jacquie Dalton started Sparrow Executive Jets less than three years ago, but she’s no newcomer to business aviation. Here, she talks about her experiences in the industry and the challenges she has faced to get to where she is today. She also explains why she accepts clients only by referral—and why she named her company after a bird.


It wasn’t a very happy upbringing, but my mom did the best she could. My younger brother had a bad accident when he was 14 and almost had his arm amputated. I dropped out of high school to help him. He was a motocross racer, and I worked full-time at a deli so I could rehab him, get him a car, sponsor him, and take him on the race circuit. I paid all his fees. I was 16 years old. I grew up quickly.

My boyfriend had a tip on a horse so we went to the racetrack, and it was that day I knew I could become a jockey. I ended up meeting [renowned horse trainer] John Forbes, and I showed up every single day, seven days a week at the break of dawn, to learn the basics—how to muck stalls, how to train ponies. The [pace and culture of the] racetrack is actually very similar to being a jet broker. There aren’t many female jockeys. ​​I looked like a girl who came from money that was riding daddy’s horses, but people didn’t realize the hardship that I had gone through. I won the first race I rode in, and the horse was 21-1. I rode just over 210 races in a year.

You never get over the shame of dropping out of high school. I went to Brookdale Community College [in New Jersey] and got my GED at age 23. It was very humbling because I had been this jockey in the newspapers and signing autographs for kids, and all of a sudden, I’m back in school. I was one of only two transfer students accepted at Northwestern University in Chicago. I graduated at the top of my class, and I got the George M. Sargent award for departmental excellence in the school of speech. That was a huge thing for me. 

I started in business aviation in a marketing position at an aviation services company in Washington, D.C. We did around 18 management acquisition deals, refurbs, and grew to 65 employees with 45 pilots. That’s where all my operational experience comes from and why I understand management companies and what they are dealing with. 

I think it’s dangerous for people who don’t have operational experience [with private jets] to be out there brokering jets. There are people working at concierge desks in hotels who are trying to book charter jets. They’ve never been on the other side of the business to see how operations and maintenance run, how safety programs run, how sales operates. At Sparrow, if I see an aircraft management company really trying to grow their retail business and sell jet cards and stuff like that, I back away because it tells me they’re more focused on generating money than running a safe operation and taking care of their aircraft owners.

If anybody ever tells you that you can buy a jet and pay for it by chartering it out, run as fast as you can, because it’s a lie. Maybe you can offset your costs if you do it wisely. At best, you can cover your personal flying costs.

I make sure my clients are very smart about the industry and about charter. Most of them will probably become aircraft owners at some point, and they will be smart aircraft owners.

The reason that our client base is by referral and invitation-only is so that we can deliver on what we promise by matching our clients to the inventory in a specific market. I’m very diligent about the operator and management company network, and I have a handle on what kind of aircraft they have coming in and going out. I make it a point to look at as many jets as I can.

I think one of the best things to come out of COVID is that a lot of new people bought aircraft that are now coming back into the market refurbished—the money that’s been put into the equipment is really nice to see. The jets are coming in refreshed and they look really good.

This industry is small, and relationships are key. I was [previously] an independent broker at Apollo for four years. I had the operations and the brokering experience, and when I went out on my own, I brought those two worlds together. It’s very competitive right now, but [with my personal network] I can just send a text or call directly and get a quote. 

Clients sometimes have flying patterns that they don’t really realize until they start working with us. I start to understand what family trips are coming up for them and I’m able to organize their travel schedules. It’s such a privilege. I have one family that’s been with me for 12 years and they’re now taking their grandchildren with them to Hawaii. I love it. My clients are the best people that I know—nothing about them is ostentatious. They care about doing things right and they care about their families.

Pricing was crazy in 2021—that year was insane. We were doing trips out to Bozeman [Montana] that used to cost $75,000 and now cost $130,000. A round trip on a heavy jet to Florida was $100,000. I think the jump in pricing was long overdue, but it was such a huge spike that it was a shock to everybody. It should have been going up incrementally for a long time. I don’t think prices are going to go down. 

My customers might need to call me at 3 a.m. I always answer the phone.

I’m particularly interested in women brokers because they run their businesses with the same mindset, focus, and commitment to clients that I have. Women are entrepreneurial, especially if they are also raising families. The ability to take care of your clients is like raising a family—it’s really hard and there’s a lot that goes on. I think women tend to be a lot more caring and a lot more intuitive. There are so many amazing women in our industry at this point. It’s our time.

It’s a sacred trust when you fly somebody, and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. The experience of being in the cabin of a jet and being in the air—it is godly to such a great extent. I think losing awareness of that is not good. 

The sparrow is a tiny bird but very hard-working and diligent, and it gets the job done. There are a lot of them, and the real strength of the sparrow is the species' ability to work together. They collaborate and build on each other’s strengths to do something even better. And that is exactly how the jet charter industry works at its best. Everybody is competing against each other, but everybody has to work together, too. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.