smart since 2005

Founder Mark Hawkins looks back at 16 years of Smart.

Smart Aviation turns 16 this week. We sat down with Smart’s Founder and Managing Director Mark Hawkins to take a look back at the highlights and challenges of the last 16 years.

Why did you decide to set up Smart Aviation?

I have been working in the aviation industry for the last 28 years, starting out at Air 2000 in 1993. At Excel Airways/Aviation I was pivotal in their sports charter’s operation and during the Champions League final in 2005, I chartered over 30 aircraft for Liverpool fans to attend the final. After three years, I decided that it was time to branch out on my own. My goal was to become one of the world’s leading charter providers and over the last 16 years, I am proud to say we have achieved that.

What been the key to Smart’s success?

Our initial success was down to our immense sports charter operation; sport has always been at the core of what we do. We had overnight success with that part of the business and have overseen thousands of flights to key fixtures and tournaments. ACMI still continues to part key to our business and lots of large airlines come to us with their AOG issues long and short term.

What’s been the most challenging part of the last 16-years?

I would have to say Covid has been the most challenging obstacle we have faced as a business. The different, constantly changing travel restrictions was the most challenging part but I’m pleased to say are continuing to navigate our way through the changes and feel confident that travel is finally returning and will continue to do so (fingers crossed).

What do you think has been Smart’s biggest achievement?

Building such a phenomenal and dedicated team is something I am immensely proud of. They have grown the business alongside me.  Chartering aircraft for some of the biggest sports names in the market and arranging a huge number of replacement aircraft during the Iceland ash cloud eruption in 2011, are also right up there.

What do you think has been the biggest change in the industry since Smart started?

The lack of charter airlines willing to operate during their peak season means adhoc flights have got less and less every year. We do work with several quality airlines who support us year-round, ensuring we can service our all-important clients.

How important is company culture to you and what measures do you take to maintain it?

Very important. Every new member of the team goes through induction training to ensure they deliver the highest level of communication and respect to all our partners. Every client must receive the ‘Smart Service’.

What are your long-term goals for Smart?

To continue to be right at the top of our game, grow the team and continue to be Smart.

60 second interview with Head of Business Development, Sam White

Sam White is Smart’s newest recruit, and she brings with her a wealth of experience from 25-years in the aviation industry.

Here’s 60-seconds with Sam, Smart’s Head of Business Development.

How long have you been at Smart Aviation?

I joined Smart in September 2020 from an aircraft charter company, where I spent 15 years managing the commercial client charter requirements.

What did you do before Smart?

I have been in the aviation industry since I graduated from the University of Greenwich with a degree in Leisure and Tourism. I always knew I wanted to work in aviation, and I got my first role at Cosmos in 1996 in the reservations department. From Comsos I joined the commercial airline Air 2000, which is where I first worked with Smart’s MD, Mark Hawkins. Shortly before Air 2000 folded in 2004, I had already made the decision that I wanted to move into the broking world. I got my first role as a broker in 2003 and then a few years later I was headhunted for a commercial role at another firm. I stayed there for 15 years.

What is your role at Smart?

As Smart’s Head of Business Development, I look for new business opportunities alongside building and maintaining relationships with our clients across all the industries on the commercial jet side of the business.

Why did you want to work in aviation?

The simple answer is I love planes. I have always been fascinated by them and my friends would most likely call me a plane geek. The Boeing 757-200 is my favourite plane. I will always be grateful to Cosmos for giving me my first step into the exciting world of aviation.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love people as much as I love planes and I enjoy talking to all the different types of people that I do in this role. Building those relationships is very important to me. No two days at Smart are the same; I never know who I am going to pick the phone up to or who I will meet in person at the airport.

What’s been your proudest achievement at Smart?

I don’t have one specific achievement; I am genuinely just so proud to work here. I get a buzz every day when I get an enquiry from a client. I have brought lots of opportunities to the business this last year, which gives me great job satisfaction.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love spending time with my children and walking our dog, Nelly, a one-year-old Cockapoo. I run regularly and am an avid skier. I can’t wait to get back on the slopes!

What one item do you rely on most to do your job?

It must be my extensive black book of contacts that I have built up over the years. I treasure the long-standing relationships that I have with my clients, and I relish regularly meeting new contacts in the industry.

How do you feel about being a woman in the aviation industry?

After 25 years in aviation, I would still say women are in the minority, but to me it’s not a negative thing. I have always worked in male dominated environments, and I enjoy that. It has certainly changed a lot over the years though. It’s getting more equal and there are opportunities for women in the industry if they want them. I would say 50% of my clientele are female and some prefer having that interaction with a woman. I am proud to work in the industry and I don’t feel at all disadvantaged in it being female.

 

16 reasons to book Smart!

In honour of Smart Aviation LTD turning 16 years old this week, we’re humbly looking back on our journey to becoming the world’s leading global sport charter specialist and the reasons why our clients have continued to book with us over the years.

We were founded in October 2005 by our Managing Director Mark Hawkins, an established sports charter specialist with over 25 years’ experience in senior operational roles within the travel and aviation industry. Over the last 16 years, we have arranged successful charters to leading sport fixtures, transported thousands of passengers on their annual pilgrimages to Lourdes, and organised too many exclusive private jet charters around the world to even count.

Hawkins said: “I reflect with great pride on all the Smart team has achieved over the last 16 years. What was a dream for me, became a reality for us all and despite the challenges we have faced over the years, particularly this last year, we’re standing here stronger than ever. I still get that enormous buzz seeing one of our flights take off and we genuinely all love what we do for all our clients.”

Here’s our 16 reasons to book Smart Aviation LTD:

Smart’s business evolves around you and exactly what you need.

Market leverage for the most cost-effective charter solutions.

Access to jets of all sizes departing from a wide range of stunning private terminals.

Relationships with operators that is unrivalled.

Team with extensive aviation experience.

 

Available 24/7, seven days a week for all your travel requirements.

Very friendly service with members of the teams seeing each flight off at departure.

Independent and uniquely positioned to deliver the perfect charter solutions.

A bespoke operation taking care of all the personal touches.

Travel and aviation experience spanning over 200 years across the team.

Integrated booking service including private transfers, meals request and other requirements.

Offering flexible solutions to all types of travel enquiries.

No-obligation quotes for all flights.

 

Leasing services that are easily bookable for the client.

The most extensive network of contacts and reputable carriers.

Dedicated to you, the client, always.

 

To book, email sales@smart-aviation.co.uk or call +44 (0) 01293 551244 today.

A Smart look back at Euro 2020

What a brilliant Euro 2020 tournament! England did us all proud and congratulations to Italy for winning what was a very tough competition.

As the leaders in global sports aircraft chartering, having just finished our fifth consecutive European Championship football operation, the Euros certainly kept us all busy here at Smart Aviation HQ. In the absence of flying British fans to matches, we successfully chartered aircrafts for government officials, media, VIP guests and fans from different countries to one of the many host countries.

During Covid, we’ve seen that our clients are relying on our 16-years of expertise more than ever and we were delighted to be involved in such a huge, global tournament again.

Founded in 2005 by sports charter specialist, Managing Director Mark Hawkins, Smart Aviation has overseen key sporting fixtures around the world including Champions League and Premier League football matches, as well as to ice-hockey, boxing, basketball, golf, motorsport and cricket tournaments.

Mark Hawkins said: “We’ve had great success with our charter flights for the Euros over the last few weeks and as global sport charter specialists, we are very easily able to charter flights for travellers from different countries. We have a reputation for offering the highest level of service in aircraft chartering and that’s why a lot of sports teams and official supporter groups rely on our expertise to ensure both players and fans get to where they need to be promptly, comfortably, and safely. This is our strength and we played to it”.

Why chose Smart Aviation:

Travel Safe

Social distancing measures will be maintained

Deep cleaning, hygiene and sanitisation at private terminals and on private aircrafts

Fewer touch points when travelling privately

Time

You really can buy time; travel to your exact schedule

You dictate when the plane departs and where from

We can handle complex itineraries and multiple stops with ease

Comfort

Luxurious cabins

Space and privacy

Bespoke menus and refreshments

Convenience

Get nearer to your final destination; chartering opens up a whole other world of smaller airports to fly to

No waiting, most private charters fly from private terminals

Avoid long airport queues or security hold ups

No baggage limits

Flexibility

The flexibility to change flight times or airports

Cost

A cost-effective option, taking into account all the benefits and cost of first-class travel with some commercial airlines

Contact Smart Aviation today for a quote.

 

Recommended Charter Broker, continues to support sports travel

Private Charter flights are highly recommended for sports team travel, providing a safer and more flexible travel option.

Despite the tough year for the Aviation industry – Smart Aviation has been seeing an increase in charter flights in March. Thanks to international football matches still being allowed to continue. This is, of course, without fans but nevertheless Smart has been involved in moving international football teams to their World Cup qualifiers matches and some international friendlies. March has been our busiest month so far this year with over 19 charters for domestic UK football teams and football teams around Europe, which is proof that the industry is picking up and confidence is growing in air travel once again.

Luggage assembled

Clive Head, our specialist sports broker has over 30 years experience in the industry and has been working hard with some international federations and teams as well as our trusted suppliers to ensure everything is organised to ensure smooth transfers of players and kit to their final destination in a safe manner.

At Smart we don’t just charter for football. We are incredibly proud that over the last quarter we have been involved in moving sports men and women to Ice Hockey, Handball and Basketball games. We have also been working hard with the organisers of the high profile Boxing match in Gibraltar this weekend. Brief’s such as these, especially in these current times take a lot of planning and we have worked closely with Inflite private terminal in Stansted and other authorities to ensure the passengers all have the correct paperwork in order to be allowed to travel and to ensure their journey is seamless from the point of departure to their arrival in Gibraltar.

As always, the Smart operations team were on hand 24/7 updating our clients with flight progress using industry leading systems.

Why choose Smart?

– You’re dealing with the experts. Our goal is excellence in service and execution – our extensive knowledge and expertise ensure we deliver.
– Our unrivalled operator relationships ensure you get the most cost-effective solution, without compromising on quality.
– Our operational support team is on-hand 24/7, 365 days a year, to deal with the unexpected and keep you flying – for total peace of mind.

Contact Smart Aviation today for more information.
E: sales@smart-aviation.co.uk
T: +44(0)1293 551244
Follow us on Instagram for regular updates.

 

60 seconds with Charter Broker James Gregory

James Gregory, from our full charter team, has 8 years worth of aviation knowledge specialising in private jet charter.

After kick starting his career with a major charter broker, James talks about how working for Smart makes him no less knowledgeable as a broker.

James Gregory Charter Broker

 

What does a typical day look like for you?

To begin my day, I like to update myself on world events and aviation news. Aviation changes overnight so I ensure I am up to speed to react accordingly. I deal with new enquiries personally by responding and keep clients / suppliers up to date with their requests from the very beginning. I believe in keeping an open and honest relationship with clients. Using industry leading flight watching software I monitor live flights and share these updates. Its important to maintain an ongoing relationship with both clients and suppliers, so I ensure regular contact is made either by email, phone or even a face to face catch up.

What do you love about working in Aviation?

No two days are the same when working in aviation. One minute I could be working on my daily tasks and the next assisting on a last-minute request. I enjoy the variation in this field. I get to speak to and visit people in various time zones, cultures and nationalities. My most enjoyable trip has been visiting clients and operators in LA but equally I got to visit this phenomenal destination. My interest for aviation goes back to seeing my grandad selling aircraft spares out of the Beehive at London Gatwick Airport.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

There can be instant diversions in aviation. It could be caused by natural disaster, technical issues, unexpected disruption, slot delays or even lack of parking slots at top destinations in Europe. Each situation has its own protocol which again reiterates the importance of an open and honest relationship with all clients and suppliers.

What one item do you rely on most to do your job?

I have worked in aviation for 8 years and my knowledge of this industry is something I will always be able to rely on. I am always available for my clients and suppliers 24/7. Smart Aviation may be smaller than our competitors but no less knowledgeable. The trust we build with our clients to provide a specialist service guarantees repeat business.

What do you do when you are not working?

In my spare time I enjoy socialising with friends and catching up on sporting activities. There’s often a competitive atmosphere in the office as we all support different football teams. My holidays are generally pretty active too. I enjoy skiing and water sports.

Where would you be working if you hadn’t chosen aviation?

I most definitely would have been doing something related to cars. I’m a big petrol head and love all things cars. I’m an extremely active person and like to keep busy. To teach others an energetic sport like skiing would be extremely rewarding.

Contact James with your private jet request on: sales@smart-aviation.co.uk or call: +44(0)1293 551244

Connect with James Gregory on LinkedIn

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