Flagship Air expands private air service in Ann Arbor

Flagship Private Air is spreading its wings across Washtenaw County, adding people to its Ann Arbor office and expanding its fleet of planes at Willow Run Airport.

The year-old firm now employs three
full-time pilots, two more part-timers and another four administrative staffers. That includes two recent pilot hires. Flagship Private Air expects to bring in another pilot and extra administrative support (probably one of its interns) this year. It has also purchased a fourth airplane, and hopes to buy another later this year.

"Our single-engine planes have been great options for our customers who need to go an hour away with 2-3 colleagues," says Erin Patton, marketing manager for Flagship Private Air.

Her father, Tim Patton, started Flagship Private Air late in 2008, to make the most of his other company's (
Domino's Farms-based Patton Holdings) plane. That plan proved to be so time and money efficient that he knew a number of other business leaders could use such a service close to their Ann Arbor bases.

Flagship Private Air uses single- and dual-engine turbo-prop planes that fly to 47 locations throughout the continental U.S., mainly in the Midwest. The original idea was to fly out of  Ann Arbor Airport, but the company switched to Willow Run because its hangars and runways were ready to go.

"Willow Run has been a very good fit for us because it has really long runways," Erin Patton says. "That has been an issue for us at Ann Arbor Airport."

Flagship Private Air's chartered planes can carry private parties within 250 miles. Prices are usually kept under $1,000 per person with a minimum of two people. The company can also cater the flight's food with offerings from Zingerman's, as well as set up hotel or rental car reservations. And Patton plans to expand his business to summer resorts in northern cities, like Traverse City or Mackinac Island, turning a 4-5 hour car trip into a 1-hour plane flight.

The idea of hiring out a small plane for a few people at a reasonable price makes it worthwhile to local business people, especially those concerned with time efficiency. For instance, customers don't have to drive far, go through extensive security checks or fly at the whim of notoriously late airlines.

The planes can be rented out on a per trip basis or customers can buy blocks of time at a discount. Flagship Private Air even allows clients to become fractional owners in a plane. Think of it like a private-plane timeshare. The company has seen a bump in bookings for May and June and expects business to continue to rise as the economy recovers this year.

Source: Erin Patton, marketing manager for Flagship Private Air
Writer: Jon Zemke
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