The high-flying life of one of Canada’s top aviation executives
“It’s a humbling gesture when somebody wants you to sell their airplane and then help them acquire another airplane, and they keep coming to you for that.”
Written by Noah Goad
The aerospace industry, which brings $29 billion in revenue according to the Canadian government, is one of the highest grossing industries in Canada. While most of the industry’s revenue is generated from commercial airlines, there is a large sum of revenue coming from the private jet industry.
Stan Kuliavas is embracing the high flying life of the aviation industry. As Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Levaero Aviation, one Canada’s largest private jet distributors, Kuliavas is front row inside one of the most lucrative industries on Earth. Bay Street Bull sat down with Stan to talk day-to-day life as one of the private jet industry’s top executives.
Q: How did you get your start in the aviation industry?
I would say that unlike most people in the industry who tend to fall in love with aviation or airplanes at an early age, for me, it happened a little bit later in life. As a child, I didn’t have much of an interest in aviation or airplanes at all. I started university, and I enrolled in a science-based curriculum there, then quickly realized that just wasn’t for me. It’s not what I enjoyed.
One day, I was trying to figure out what I was doing with my life, and like any university student, I had no idea what I was going to do for a job, or for my future. My father suggested, “Why don’t you go to the local airport, take an intro flight, and see if you like it?”
Like any good university student, I did that very quickly…which meant I waited about two months. On a Saturday morning when nothing else was going on, I went to the local airport in Kingston and signed up for an intro flight, and sat in an airplane. I can still picture watching the wheel come off the ground. People in the industry talk about the moment when you get bit by the aviation bug. For me it was that moment. I decided I needed to do something with airplanes.
I eventually switched into a business program. I had taken business classes before, and thought I could combine business with aviation.
I finished university, and wanted to see if I could get a job in the aviation industry. I was very fortunate to be hired by a fractional ownership company here in Canada, which allows individuals or corporations to purchase shares in an aircraft.
That was my first foray into an aviation career, and really any type of formalized sales career.
Q: What is the sales process like at Levaero Aviation?
It’s very much an educational process: It’s less a matter of convincing, because I always want to help people with their needs and find the right aircraft.
There is no quick answer to what the right aircraft is. You have to consider a lot. What is your top destination? How many people are traveling? When you go, are there multiple destinations that you’re trying to visit? What are some of the less frequent destinations you need access to? Once you figure this out, you try to build on a flight profile for the customer.
Then I like to stick to what I call the 80% rule: figuring out what 80% of the customer’s flying routine is, and an aircraft to match it. The other 20% we can make arrangements for, whether that’s commercial air travel, some level of chartering an aircraft, or any combination of those.
Q: Who is the typical customer at Levaero Aviation?
Generally, it’s a range of medium- to large-sized corporations, and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. If we’re talking about the breakdown of demographics of who flies on these airplanes, we see senior management and your C-suite level of course, but people will be surprised to know that the majority of people on private aircraft are generally middle management.
The myth that these airplanes are just for CEOs to travel around luxuriously, sip champagne and eat caviar, is not the reality of flying on private jets. The reason we most often see middle management on private jets, is because over time, it’s more economical for companies to purchase their own aircraft to transport their employees instead of buying commercial airline tickets time and time again.
I certainly have customers that people would recognize from television or elsewhere. For a lot of people, it’s tough to be in an airport with hundreds, and move around comfortably and safely. There’s a certain kind of person— whether it’s a Hollywood actor or actress, politician, or someone in business. In a lot of cases, private aviation becomes a necessity in those worlds for these people and their families.