Ultimate nonstop: Jet Linx flies virtually anywhere from Indy, for a price | Crain's Indianapolis

Ultimate nonstop: Jet Linx flies virtually anywhere from Indy, for a price

Indianapolis Jet Linx principals Casey Blake, left, and Brent Claymon said the base added 20 members and six aircraft in 2016. | Photo by Chris O’Malley/Crain’s Indianapolis

A surge of optimism for additional nonstop flights has arrived at Indianapolis International Airport.

The airport recently landed new nonstops to Austin, San Diego and parts of Florida. Gov. Eric Holcomb also proposes spending up to $10 million to attract additional service to and from Indiana airports.

But what’s a businessperson to do if he or she wants to fly somewhere off the beaten path? For example, it’s unlikely there will ever be a commercial nonstop flight to Williston, N.D., where there’s money to be made in the Bakken oil region. A person would need to fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul, first, and such connections aren’t conducive to a one-day trip.

Off the radar to most travelers, there are virtually unlimited nonstop flights from Indianapolis International to almost any airport, especially the most obscure destinations nationwide. But instead of scheduled commercial service, it’s the province of private jet companies such as Jet Linx Indianapolis.

The locally operated unit of Omaha-based Jet Linx is hopeful that a revived economy and booming stock market will stimulate demand for private jet service.

“We’ve been growing in the 30 percent-plus range per year in all aspects of our business, including revenues, new clients and aircraft under management,” said Brent Claymon, base partner of Jet Linx Indy.

“There’s a lot of momentum. People are pretty excited and bullish about the economy,” he said.

Club-based model

Of course, the price of entry into this realm of flying isn’t cheap.

Joining the Linx Club Card program costs a one-time membership fee of $12,500. The upper-tier Executive Card program costs $17,500.  Beyond that, members pay by the hour for flights. Based on flight times and length of stay, clients may have the opportunity for discounted hourly rates. Sometimes they can get aboard an empty leg for $500 an hour.

Considering a member could bring onboard seven or eight other people, such as employees or clients, such services might be economical compared with the cost of booking flights at the last minute.

Jet Linx markets its fleet as a way to conduct business more efficiently.

“The intent is efficiency. Being home for dinner time with the kids,” or “tuck-in time,” said Claymon, who founded modular building and storage firm Pac-Van Inc. He later sold it to a private equity firm and is currently a principal of Tyson Onsite, Encore Sotheby’s International Realty and Claymon Investments.

Among Jet Linx clients is Ken Kocher, former president of Zionsville-based Lids Sports Group. He still uses Jet Linx, saying it makes traveling easier with his son who has special needs.

Kocher used a previous jet company but said he wasn't pleased with the service, including a flight through questionable weather conditions.

Base president Casey Blake "would never do that. He'd ground the flight," said Kocher. "Safety is far more important than taking my money."

Kocher also said he deals with the same people on a regular basis at Jet Linx Indianapolis.

"Airplanes are airplanes but the service I think is what we all look for. They really know who you are. They know my son's needs. The pilots are all the same pilots," Kocher said.

Priority on perks

Private aviation is a high-touch business.

The Jet Linx hangar is on the far-northeast corner of the Indianapolis airport, near the now-vacant parking lots of the former terminal. It’s not Indianapolis International’s most flattering area, with a dilapidated logistics building nearby. 

That changes when one drives into Jet Linx parking, triggering a bell that rings inside the customer waiting area. Employees greet members by name and unload luggage from their cars, which are driven into an empty hangar and given a complementary detailing. Several Mercedes and BMWs sit glistening as if they are on a showroom floor. If the windshield fluid is low, it’s topped off. Oil changes, windshield replacements and bumper repairs have been provided as well.

The member area features chairs and sofas built with simulated aircraft fuselage. A kitchenette includes ample adult beverages.

A Jet Linx client services employee recalled greeting the parents of one member who flew in for the delivery of his wife’s child. She drove the woman and her parents to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, just in time for the birth.

But the biggest draw might be quick access to a variety of aircraft on short notice.

Private fleet

Jet Linx, which employees about 45 here including pilots, doesn’t own the aircraft but manages them for aircraft owners. In fact, it helps them buy the multimillion dollar jets. When owners don’t need them, Jet Linx leases them to fly members. It also maintains the aircraft, which helps ensure they’re in compliance and safe to fly.

“These are largely first-time aircraft buyers,” said base president Blake, pointing to several private jets parked in a brightly lit hangar. One was a 2010 Hawker 900XP that seats nine people and sports a logo of a local company on the tail.

Indy is home to one of 14 bases Jet Linx operates in the U.S., with a total fleet of 82 planes.

The jets can fly into most any airport. Blake recalled clients saying that if they’d taken a scheduled commercial flight they’d have had to drive two or three hours to get to their ultimate destinations, versus being just minutes away via a rural airport.

“It’s almost impossible to do that with commercial aviation,” Blake said.

Jet Linx recently opened a satellite office at Indianapolis Executive Airport, in Zionsville, which offers the same amenities.

Claymon also plans to open a sales center in a building in Carmel, where Sotheby’s is constructing a new headquarters. It’s also close to where many of his members live, making it easy for them to swing by, Claymon said.

January 27, 2017 - 2:23pm