July 6, 2020

Although XOJet Aviation has not been immune to the effects on business aviation charter traffic from the pandemic, the company has kept its focus on the post-COVID environment, and some creative thinking permitted the company to maintain its existing workforce through the crisis without layoffs or furloughs.

“We moved some folks out of back office support roles, such as talent recruitment and HR, to where we needed augmented staffing to support company operations,” said Kevin Thomas, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “Not only were we able to keep them employed; we also kept them busy.”

Employee retention was part of an overarching shift to XOJet’s focus in response to the pandemic, “not only structurally as a business,” Thomas said, “but also in terms of balancing schedules and modifying our floor plan to create better social distancing while still maintaining company operations. There was also the human factor to consider. People still need to be able to interact with one another.”

Those moves appear prescient as Thomas stated demand for the company’s services has gradually rebounded.

“Looking at our 30-day rolling average, we’re back to about 85% of where we were prior to COVID,” he said. “There have even been some days where we’ve exceeded [traffic levels over] the same day in 2019, although there’s still significant downward pressure on pricing.”

In the midst of the crisis, XOJet Aviation also completed a planned move from its former California headquarters to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) in Florida. The pandemic temporarily halted the company’s plans for a new HQ building, but Thomas noted “we’ve resumed internal discussions” with three potential vendors on that project.

Thomas also emphasized that XOJet is not only hiring again, albeit in limited capacity, but is also actively seeking more aircraft. “We have an immediate need for four jets right now,” he said. “That’s purely driven by demand. We’d put roughly 100 hours per month on each of them if we had them right now.

“We continue to see positives for the market and we’re operating under the mindset that things will get better, not worse,” Thomas said. “Business aviation will play an important role in the reemergence of our industry and the national economy, and while we’re not yet at 100% I believe we’ll see a tremendous resurgence over the next 12-18 months.”