The Jet Business
Last week, me and Jonny were invited into the heart of Knightsbridge for a very special experience. Founded by Steve Varsano, The Jet Business is the world’s first street level corporate aviation showroom for pre-owned and new business aircraft.
By creating “a fully immersive and educational experience”, Steve’s mission is to revolutionize the way pre-owned business aircraft are traded.
Indeed, The Jet Business is a showroom like no other. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jane, a member of the company’s PR team. She informed us that we would in fact be meeting Steve, which, if truth be told, took a little while to register as I was still busy absorbing my surroundings; huge floor to ceiling windows, beautiful marble flooring, a visually stunning LED video wall and plush white furniture, where we eventually sat down with the founder.
Having done a little background research beforehand, my first impressions of Steve were as I had expected: well-built, well-presented and most importantly, well-spoken. Steve’s slick mannerisms combined with a suave Italian-American accent, made me feel as though he could sell a plane just as easily as he could sell a pizza. I guess you have to have that “smooth operator” aura about you when your job involves dealing with some of the wealthiest men and women on the planet – or as Steve likes to call them, “ultra high net-worth individuals”.
Using a custom developed iPad app, Steve took us through the purchasing process for choosing a plane. He explained that the app houses an inventory of information for over 100 aircraft, which when synced with the video wall, can be used to project life-size schematics as well as performance specifications for any chosen plane. Furthermore, prospective buyers can use this information to simultaneously compare aircraft in real-time.
Shortly after this presentation, Steve beckoned us to follow him and in doing so, we discovered a discrete door which led into an adjacent room. As soon as I entered, my jaw dropped – we were now standing in a mock-up Airbus ACJ319, which had everything; from a hideaway Bang & Olufsen TV with surround-sound, to luxurious leather seats, marble-panelled walls and ambient lighting, believe me when I tell you that this cabin would be enough to make James Bond proud. Most impressive, perhaps, was the fact that Steve was controlling all of the electronics via The Jet Business app.
But wait, there’s more!
We were confidently led past two ornate doors and into what appeared to be a beautifully furnished boardroom, equipped with both an iMac and a Bang & Olufsen TV. Then, at the tap of an app, two doors that I assumed were well-decorated walls, opened up in front of us to reveal a lavish office and lounge area, which had its very own home cinema system.
At this point, I had no words. While I was amazed by what I had seen, I couldn’t help but think: in times of economic uncertainty, who could even afford such luxury?
Jonny Interviews Steve Varsano
Now that we were back in the main cabin area, I sat down and composed myself, ready to interview Steve.
Like Aqil, I had done my own research too, and so I casually began by throwing out a fact: “Is it true that a real one of these costs around 30 million dollars?” I asked, to which Steve coolly replied, “It’s actually closer to 90 million dollars.”
Humbled by the fact that I was now sitting in mock-up of a plane that could easily be parked in Roman Abramovich’s hangar, I moved onto more pressing matters. I was eager to find out if there was a market for pre-owned and new business aircraft, especially in a recession.
Steve explained that in light of the recession, the “ultra high net-worth individuals” that his company cater for, still have the means to afford such luxuries. These individuals include, but not limited to, potentates, oligarchs, multinational conglomerates, tech titans, political figures and high-profile celebrities – many of whom are from the BRICs or the “superpower economies”; Russia and China to name but a few. With this in mind, I became curious as to why Steve decided to set up shop in London.
“Convenience.” He stated, explaining that unlike other locations, London’s time zone allows his business to communicate with clients in Europe and Asia more effectively. Furthermore, The Jet Business looks out onto Hyde Park Corner, one of the capital’s busiest roundabouts. That, plus being in close proximity to Harrods, increases the likelihood that the showroom will attract affluent clients.
“As a chauffeur driven car comes to a stop in traffic, the person sitting in the back is now in a perfect position to look straight through the window and into a life-size jet. I’ve seen cars go round and round again, until they eventually pull up by the entrance.”
With the interview now over, me and Aqil headed for the cabin exit. But just as we were doing so, Steve told us to look out through the said window… which, strangely enough, was now opaque! Highlighting the importance of client confidentiality, Steve revealed that the window was in fact controlled-occultation glass, designed to provide instant privacy at the flick of a switch – or in this case, a tap of an app!
Steve’s answers gave me an insight into the intricate planning that must have been involved in bringing his vision to life. Undoubtedly, The Jet Business is an exciting venture and so, we would like to wish Steve and his team every success for the future.