Introduced in 1966 by the TAG Group, TAG Aviation has been a pioneer in the business of aircraft chartering, management and maintenance for five decades now, providing customised business and private aviation services to businesses and individuals throughout the world.
The brand is known internationally for its reputation for impeccable safety, reliability and operational excellence, and with services available throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, TAG is serious about private jet solutions for any type of customer.
Appointed as CEO of TAG Aviation Asia in September 2016, Jolie Howard has brought an unrivalled ambition for expansion and a keen eye for customers’ needs to TAG’s operations in the region. Having spent decades in the industry, she knows how to sell private jets to buyers who might not understand the benefits of private jet services.
“Our success is dependent upon developing relationships with customers,” she says. “Apart from that, we have to know that we are offering a superior product. We are well tested, and with that in mind, we have managed to grow this business at a fast rate.”
Jolie began her aviation career in business development and marketing, when the industry was “more about service”. “I joined Hong Kong Aviation Group, which owns Metrojet, and became addicted to the business. I started to learn about aviation and how I could bring those services to the market.”
At the time, that was a challenging task. “Nobody knew about private jets,” she says, “and nobody knew why they needed to exist. I spent a lot of time educating the market and developing promotional education pieces for local media outlets to help people understand what a private jet could offer.”
She worked there for seven years before joining TAG Aviation as Director of Business Development – its first employee – where she faced many issues around regulation and compliance that needed to be resolved. “We had support from sister companies in the US and Europe, so we were able to continuously modify and make our product more localised and suitable for the clientele in this part of the world.”
During her tenure, she was recognised by the company’s board for advancing TAG to become the largest aircraft management company in the region. She held that title until her departure in 2013, going on to work for CIT’s Business Aircraft Finance in Asia as the company’s Vice President for three years.
“In that role, I worked on financing the purchases of aircrafts. The clients were the same, but I was able to see the needs of the customer from their point of view, and the experience was invaluable.”
In 2016, Jolie returned to TAG Aviation, this time as CEO. Now with a deeper knowledge of the industry, she’s determined to continue expanding the business’s reach in Asia. “As wealth in the region increases, our services will be in higher demand.
“As wealth in the region increases, our services will be in higher demand.”
We have already established a network of customers throughout China, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, and we’re now looking to enter markets in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. As those markets continue to mature, we’ll have more opportunities to sell our services.”
TAG directs its business towards high-end clients in need of personal aircraft services. With the high price of admission, Jolie says that a lot of work goes into customising and specifying services on a private jet. “You need to think about the needs of each client. They’re wealthy individuals who have maybe just sold their company and cashed out.
They’ve got time to enjoy themselves. Then, there are clients who are in the middle of expanding their business, and they need a personal jet for travel.
“We’re catering to a wealthy, retired individual who is travelling to an exotic resort, for example. Our mission is to ensure they are having a fantastic experience, with amenities like catering available to them on their flight. They need security for when they arrive at their destination, so we make sure that’s available.
Maybe they want the service crew to be informally attired? If they’re going to Hawaii, why not have the staff wear Hawaiian shirts? The time spent on the flight must be an experience, and we make sure we provide that.
“Then there are executives looking to travel overseas. They’re involved with teleconferences during the flight, inviting bankers and other partners onto the plane. They’re doing that weekly, and they’re extremely specific with what they need. We need to ensure there’s enough crew on board to support that.
Maintenance needs to be scheduled meticulously. The in-flight service must be efficient. The profiles are different, and they need to be catered to appropriately.”
Knowing the details of each client’s needs and tailoring projects to meet them is the secret to TAG’s ongoing success. “We must know what a client wants. If a client benefits from what we offer, we improve their standing, and we must believe in the work we are doing. Understanding the intricacies of each situation is the way to do business.”
“Understanding the intricacies of each situation is the way to do business.”
Conversely, TAG Aviation maintains consistency across all its services when it comes to reliability, excellence and, most importantly, safety. As in any other business in the aviation industry, Jolie prides herself on that. “We emphasise safety awareness in this business, and we have a robust safety management system that is continuously being improved.
We encourage reporting of incidents and acquire the necessary data to support those systems. For us, it’s about setting an example in the industry. We are safety leaders in the industry and, by having a strong culture of safety and a robust set of procedures, we can continue to lead in that aspect.”
Although TAG adheres meticulously to all international regulations and rules, Jolie says the Asian market provides its own share of difficulties in this regard. Throughout her interview with The CEO Magazine, she notes the “immaturity” of the Asian market as a major challenge specific to the region.
This has meant that issues such as cabotage, taxation on aviation services, and the limited financing of registered aircrafts has had an outsized impact on how the business operates. Jolie says the only way for TAG to overcome these issues is to spend more time educating the market.
“Short-term, we need to work around those issues, but long-term, it’s imperative that people understand that we are not in the commercial airline business. We comply with the same rules and safety requirements as commercial airlines, but our clientele is different. We need flexibility because of that.
In the long-term, the industry will need to address these problems. Mature markets like Europe, the US and Australia are much better regulated in that regard, and we’ll need to continue to lobby for change.”
Elsewhere, Jolie has focused on attracting young people to the industry, making sure that the business is accessible and interesting to them.
“I strongly believe in bringing young people into the industry, having worked in it for 20 years. Being an early adopter, I enjoy it a lot. I’d like to see support for young people coming into this industry. It’s always good when new perspectives are brought into the business.
If young people join the team, they can learn, thrive, and excel. We have a cadet program, offering students a general aviation pilot career. That’s for select candidates, and already three pilots have been selected from our organisation.
“We offer that to staff who are interested, and that’s an opportunity for them to grow. This program has been active for three years now, and I’m happy to see the progress that has been made with our recruits.”
Jolie emphasises the need for new blood in the industry, especially if TAG wants to remain in a competitive position in the region. “Staying competitive has been the biggest challenge of my career, and it’s something I must always think about,” she says.
“Staying competitive has been the biggest challenge of my career.”
With her decades of experience and long record of success at both CIT and TAG, it’s unlikely that she will ever stop considering it. “By understanding the relationships we need to build, we have been successful in bringing our services to customers,” she says. “That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”