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Volume 10 No. 22
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Hangin' With... Global Charter Company Air Charter Service CEO Justin Bowman

JUSTIN BOWMAN is the CEO of global charter company Air Charter Service. ACS flew a total of 231,502 passengers around the globe in '13 and expected to provide transportation needs for the World Cup for thousands. The company was founded in '90 and has 17 worldwide offices on five continents. Bowman spoke to SBD Global about his favorite sports to watch and play, his favorite teams and the biggest challenge his company faces.

On the impact technological advances have had on ACS …
Justin Bowman: I've been doing this job, in this industry, for 22 years. You can't even compare how different the 22 years are from when I first started to how it is today. Technology is playing an ever greater role in what we do. As a business, we're constantly investing in new IT systems because as an intermediary, as a charter consultancy, our job is to make sure that we deliver. Therefore information is key to what we are doing. So we have to make sure that all of our 17 offices can all share information as quickly as possible. We have to invest in technology; we have to invest in the Web. It's all now about the speed of information, it's ease of booking. Our role as a business is to just make the experience as easy and quick and seamless as can be done. You have to embrace technology, because if you don't, then you die. Technology is the future. We try to stay as out in front of it as we can.

On the biggest challenge his company faces ...
Bowman: Operator insolvency. Airlines come and go so often at the moment. Our challenge is making sure that when we're doing business with airlines, that by the time we come to do the flight, they are still in existence. Obviously the challenges involved to charter an aircraft are very large. Let's take a 777 going down from the States to Brazil and back, you're talking about a trip that is costing almost half a million dollars. The sums involved can be extremely large. When you book an aircraft, you have to pay a deposit, so we have to choose who our partners are very, very carefully. That's our biggest challenge.

On getting into the charter industry ...
Bowman: I fell into this by total accident. I always wanted to work in the aviation industry, but I didn't know this little niche of the industry existed and when I say niche, we have sales of nearly 500 million dollars a year, so it's not that small a niche. But compared to the big airlines, it’s still quite a niche-y little part of it. I fell into it by accident because I was a student and I needed to get an industrial placement in industry while I was at university. I stumbled across Air Charter Service, and I started at the bottom. And 22 years later, here I am, I'm the CEO. It’s been a ride. It's been great fun. The beauty of the charter industry is no two days are ever, ever the same. It's always bespoke. We're involved in sports, we're involved in humanitarian disasters. Most of the world's relief agencies come to us if there's a big crisis somewhere and we fly humanitarian aid, we fly the rescue workers. When there's earthquakes, we'll fly the guys that go looking in the rubble quickly into where the disaster is so that they can go and hopefully save lives. Watch what's on the news channels and that gives you a pretty good idea at any one time of what’s going on inside our offices. That’s why it’s fun.

On his favorite sports ...
Bowman: My favorite sport to play is tennis. I’m a huge tennis fan. I'm not very good, but I love it. And I like it more than golf, because if you play a bad shot, it's only about 10 seconds until you play another one. To watch, I'm a huge football fan. I spend my life trying to go to as many football games around the world as I can. I’m a season ticket holder at (League Championship) Brighton & Hove Albion. We lost in the playoffs this year -- nightmare.

On his favorite U.S. sports team …
: If I was going to give you an American equivalent, I've always, since I was about eight years old, been a Green Bay fan. I started watching American football when it was first introduced on Channel 4 in the U.K. back in about 1980. That’s when Green Bay were crap, they were doing 1-15 seasons. I like their strip, green and yellow, it looks pretty cool. I've watched their games ever since. It was lovely to actually support a winning team when Brett Favre was there. I'd like to go to a game one day.

On his World Cup prediction ...
: I think it's going to be a Germany against Brazil final. I think that the consistency of the Germans will shock the hosts in the final.