A corporate jet caterer sees some signs of better times

The corporate jet’s taken a public beating during the recession, becoming the symbol of greed after the nation’s auto titans jetted in to Washington to beg for bailouts.

Push that hype aside and we can learn something from the jet business, where traffic is starting to recover and that means businesses doing deals, which, hopefully, bring economic growth.

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We got a view on this recently from Kristen Wasyliszyn, an entrepreneur who depends on business aviation. She owns Atikis Flight Catering, supplying food for corporate flights out of St Paul, Anoka and Flying Cloud airports.

Her niche took a big hit this year, but now she’s seeing a “slow but steady increase in business prompting me to hire more people.”

When the full on recession hit my business went down about 40 percent (a few months 60). I was forced to let go of quite a few people and work the hours myself. The FBOs (flight based operations) were laying off their people as well, back to bad trickle down days…

Planes were not coming to MPLS as they once were. When the big three auto maker CEOs had the “private jet” scandal, they didn’t handle it well and hurt our entire industry.

In the last few months I have seen a slow but steady increase in business. I think the increase is A. the economy is getting better- B. My “competitors” not being able to weather the economic storm and possibly like many others going the way of the powdered wig.

Industry research shows corporate jet travel is coming back, with the number of flights up more than 20 percent in November and December compared to last year, led by the “large cabin jet” sector.

That jibes with what Wasyliszyn’s vantage point.

“Lately, Ive been seeing more airplanes,” said Wasyliszyn, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network. She feels like she’ll be “back to full force in the upcoming year. That said, Ive always had rose colored glasses on…”

We got in a bit of an extended email conversation about business jets and elitism. Despite the champagne-and-caviar image it evokes, “I’m here to tell you no one is eating lobster,” she said.

“A quick turkey box lunch to slam down while flying to meetings is the order of the day.”

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