In for the long haul

Today, ACM employs more than 90 people and operates from two 12,000 square metre hangars in Baden-Baden airport. It specialises in long haul transportation, such as routes from Sao Paulo to Paris on its Global Express XRS, and a non-stop route from Europe to Central Africa on a Falcon 2000EX. The schedule is so packed that, according to Director of Sales Jonas Kraft, there was no time to celebrate a significant event that occurred this year: “The daily routine didn’t allow time for celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary extensively,” he remarked, maintaining a focus on regular duties.

Jonas’ role within the organisation is two-fold: “I am responsible for sales and marketing, also I’m in close contact with companies and private owners, as ACM does not have any vehicles of its own.” In a wider sense, Jonas believes that there has to be a responsibility to its clients before they even set off: “It starts from the moment someone leaves home, to when they arrive, right up to the point they get back. Wherever possible ACM covers a range of additional services, such as catering and limousine hire, always co-operating with larger suppliers so 100 per cent excellent service can be provided for customers,” he continues. This is not just PR talk, as Jonas gives specific details on just how hands on the people involved are, from the top downwards: “Our regular passengers have the direct phone numbers for management, who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

This approach has paid off, with a very loyal customer base wanting to go back to ACM on a consistent basis: “The consistency means that the people who use the service do so as long-term customers, and any new people using a charter will often come back after trying it once. Occasionally you get one-offs, such as someone who wants to travel from Dubai to Greece on a private plane, but for the most part the focus is on frequent flyers.”

In order to keep up this positive philosophy, there is always movement towards employing the right staff to add to the team: “The main focus is if someone you are bringing in has skills in the industry, whether or not the person in question is coming from a service or aviation background. For instance, a flight attendant could have a lot of experience working in restaurants or hotel chains. They could then be taught how to work in the air industry, and likewise the other way around can be true too. In either case, flexibility and professionalism is important when potential candidates are being considered,” declares Jonas. There is also an emphasis on safety, precision and discretion, with the expectation that a level of dedication is maintained both on the ground and in the air.

There are also apprenticeships available, whereby students can learn aircraft mechanics, eventually earning a skilled worker’s certificate from the Chamber of Industry, and in recent years two graduates from the programme received special recognition for a year of work in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

As the company does not specifically own any aircraft, the sustainability aspect of ACM is achieved through persuading aircraft owners to use more efficient models: “Essentially, it is about following the same guidelines as others in this industry. When someone is considering buying a new aircraft, there is always an effort to nudge them toward more modern engines and trying to renew fleets as necessary, to ensure maximum efficiency,” Jonas details.

When discussing growth, there is usually no limit set. While its fleet may range from the smaller Citation to the larger Boeing Business Jets, when it comes to the charter industry, the desire for expansion is also tempered with the recognition that growing too big could potentially harm the service that clients want, which is why Jonas is helping to oversee a programme of sustainable development: “In 12 months a new addition will be included in the fleet. For the next three to four years, it is important that the fleet stays around ten, because if the setup becomes too large there is a danger of the service becoming anonymous and passive, and this is not something that ACM wants.”

It would be interesting to see what Claus would have made of the organisation that has emerged from his initial foray into the world of aviation. There have already been considerable changes, both in terms of the legacy emerging from his original vision, and how that has emerged over the course of the last 25 years. It will be fascinating to see how the philosophy of personal service is maintained, and how the business will evolve in the future.

ACM Air Charter
German airline based at Baden-Baden airport
Manages a fleet of seven planes
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017