Exclusive Interview with Priester Aviation President Rich Ropp

Rich Ropp, President of Priester Aviation in one of the company's hangars

Priester Aviation, which has bases throughout the United States and internationally, is among the world’s most experienced global private aviation companies, specialising in aircraft management and private travel solutions. We talked to Rich Ropp to find out more about the business after recently being appointed to the role of President.

Luxurious Magazine: Congratulations on the new job. With 30 years of experience in aircraft management and aviation sales, including positions held at Jet Linx Aviation and Jet Aviation, what key learnings will you be bringing to your position as President?
Rich Ropp: I’ve worked with large and small companies over the years, so I’ve accumulated a collection of best practices on processes that work and options to best cross-communicate between departments. In both cases, I worked with dedicated professionals who really understood what was needed for clients to be successful. They went out of their way to develop relationships with people in the market, and all came together to achieve common goals.

If everyone’s working towards the same objective, it’s a very powerful and cohesive force. From a business development standpoint, this worked well in creating growth opportunities and cultivating sales while benefiting clients. We’ll be looking at our sales processes and overall targets to ensure that we attract clients seeking the deeply rooted personalised level of services that we deliver.

Rich Ropp walking down a private jet's steps

LM: What are some of your other career highlights?
RR: I’m proud of our work in opening Jet Linx’s St. Louis base in 2014. From a blank slate, we created one of the leading locations for the Jet Linx network. It was a great challenge, but it was very rewarding growing the aircraft owner and jet card business in that region, while managing daily operations.

It was gratifying to learn of our clients’ positive accolades and consistent referrals, a true testimony to our local teams’ approach to high-touch service and attention to every detail. I was also able to share the business development and revenue growth experiences I learned there, and helped implement them at other Jet Linx locations in Boston, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and South Florida.

My role at Jet Aviation allowed me to represent the global platform of services as a single point of contact and connectivity. I know that my new role at Priester will enable the culmination of my many skillsets and customer touchpoints to ensure we continue to strengthen our client delivery touchpoints and remain the premier choice for our clients and future prospects.

A family boarding a Priester Aviation jet

LM: What will be some of your key priorities and objectives for the business going forward?
RR: Priester Aviation has an amazing legacy within aviation. It’s not too often that you can trace the history of a company in our business back 75+ years. One of our goals is to help share the power of that extraordinary experience with a larger audience. There may be a perception that Priester is only a Chicago or Midwest-focused company, but that’s just not the case.

We serve locations across the country and have ties internationally. Our priorities going forward are to make more connections to different bases and expand our reach without sacrificing what makes Priester special. Our executive team will continue to strategise on the refinement of our processes and mapping to ensure that we are optimised and that the extra time gained can be redirected for new projects, expansion, and client experience improvement. We will be looking at new technology, expansion locations, partnership opportunities, and cost efficiencies.

LM: How much of a focus is there on sustainability and the environment?
RR: We are always focused on sustainability and environmental initiatives. We want to be part of solutions for the industry as we advance. We’re looking at ways to expand our capabilities and offerings and the best ways to help our clients achieve their sustainability goals within private aviation. We’ve reduced our waste internally and digitise as much as possible. We continue to evaluate the movement towards the common use of SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel), given that it has similar properties to conventional jet fuel but with a smaller carbon footprint.

People boarding a Priester private jet

LM: What sets Priester Aviation apart from other private jet providers?
RR: Our heritage of commitment to our clients. It’s something that started over 75 years ago with our founder, George Priester, and carries through today under our Chairman, Andy Priester, the third generation of the family to lead this company. We deliver daily on that legacy to our clients, with expertise in every facet of private aviation.

Our team members have been with us for years, and they have the deep connections and relationships throughout the industry to offer unmatched capabilities. We have aircraft strategically positioned across the globe, providing maximum flexibility and value. We’re striving every day to be the most respected, trusted and experienced operator in the country.

A young girl enjoying being on a Priester Aviation jet

We know our customers personally, and we look out for their interests first and foremost to best serve their needs. We create relationships beyond a balance sheet.

Given our brand legacy and overall bench strength, we have the solid footing required to build our fleet and operational reach with our unwavering safety platform and tailored flight solutions for any aircraft type. We are nimble enough to move with the market as it changes with solid footing to ensure the stability that aircraft owners and charter clients seek.

Gulfstream G500 on a runway

LM: You have added five new aircraft to your fleet to meet the growing demand for owner and charter use. Which jets are these, and how many does Priester Aviation have available to clients?
RR: We recently added a Bombardier Global 6000, a Gulfstream G500 (above), a Dassault Falcon 2000LXS (below), a Bombardier Challenger 300, and a Bombardier Learjet 45XR. With these recent aircraft additions, the Priester managed fleet is at around 75 aircraft, with another eight to ten in the 2022 pipeline.

Dassault Falcon 2000LXS parked outside a hangar

Of these 75, we operate roughly half on our charter certificate with the ability to provide additional solutions through our vetted network of partners.

LM: Who are your principal customers, and is the USA your biggest market?
RR: Our customers are diverse, from people who need an occasional charter or supplemental lift needs to full management of owner aircraft. We help people in all facets of private aviation, including executive charter, operations and safety management, or aviation consulting. Retail charter clients represent the largest portion of our market share. The United States is our home base and biggest market.

A terrier dog laying on one of the company's welcome mats

LM: Are you seeing a growing trend for clients wishing to travel on a private jet with their pets?
RR: Being able to travel with one’s pets is one of the great aspects of private aviation. We’ve seen that trend grow as people enter private aviation for the first time, especially since the beginning of 2020. Pets are very important to our flying families, so access to our fleet is very important. We’ve found that new clients have started flying via charter or jet card simply so their pets can accompany them as if they are sitting in their own living room. Pets are family members to most of our clientele.

LM: In your spare time, will you travel by private jet or on commercial aircraft?
RR: On occasions, an empty leg might come available that matches my travel schedule/destination. However, 99% of the time, I use the airlines for my business and personal travel.

LM: Have you always had a passion for aviation?
RR: Yes, since I was very young. My father worked for Trans World Airlines, so I was able to fly for free as a perk until I was 21 years old. After getting my driver’s licence, I would skip high school on occasion and jump on random flights to Chicago, New York, West Palm Beach, Washington, DC, and several others, which was great fun, given the sites I saw, people I met, and the service I received.

However, one day, my father learned of a trip I was on and actually grounded me on the jetway during my arrival back into St. Louis. I still look up any time I hear an aircraft – it never gets old to me.

LM: What are your luxuries in life?
RR: I’m fairly simple, but I do love my Coach leather messenger bag. I also love Caymus and Silver Oak Cabernets, and I will drive out of my way for a great ice cream cone/sundae. Furthermore, I always enjoy a business or first-class airline upgrade, given the high-touch service experience.

LM: Thank you for your time Rich, and it has been a pleasure talking to you.

A man enjoying a flight on a private jet with Priester

Priester Aviation – Where and How?

For more information on Priester Aviation, visit www.priesterav.com.

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Simon Wittenberg

Senior Editorial Contributor

Born in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and now based in London, Simon Wittenberg is the senior editorial contributor to Luxurious Magazine® reporting directly to Paul Godbold. A specialist in the automotive sector, he has now expanded his repertoire to encompass all aspects relating to luxury and lifestyle. Simon has worked with some of the world’s most iconic marques such as Lotus Cars, Ferrari and Tesla Motors. His passions include luxury goods, motorsport, fine dining and travel.

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