Rick Biemann chuckles recalling the time he had to fly an overly circuitous route around Ontario just to get to the northern reaches of the province.
After catching a commercial flight in Sault Ste. Marie, Biemann landed in Toronto, hopped on a connecting flight to Barrie, and then boarded a charter flight to make the rest of the trip north.
Without private flight service available in the Sault, Biemann had no choice but to make the multi-stop journey, a frustrating and time-consuming adventure.
“How silly is that when you have to factor that into your business as a business owner – all that time, and all that energy, and all that money?” he said.
Booking through the Shaire website – and soon through a smartphone app – clients can reserve a private flight on the company's Cessna 414A Chancellor for the day of their choosing.
The plane takes off from the Sault airport and flies directly to the client's preferred destination, where they can then disembark and carry on with their day.
While private charters are pricier than the average seat on a commercial flight, they do come with a host of benefits that Biemann believes will appeal to clients looking for an efficient, streamlined approach to travel.
“There's a lot of flexibility that inherently comes with flying private – there's no security, no lineups; you don't have to be at the airport an hour before,” Biemann said.
“You show up at the airport, you get right on your plane, and you go.”
Through Shaire, there's also an opportunity for clients to recuperate some of the cost of the charter.
After landing at its destination, the plane would typically return to the Sault empty. Instead, the vacant seats are listed on the Shaire website, which are available for anyone to book.
Because the company has already covered the cost of the flight through the initial booking, any money made from individual seat sales on the return flight will go back to the original client.
Shaire can fly just about anywhere in Ontario, as well as to destinations in Québec and Manitoba, and even to some of the major cities in nearby American states; Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and locations in Wisconsin are all possibilities, Biemann said.
The company is eager to get into the smaller airports, which he believes are largely underserved.
“Air Canada, Porter – these guys do a great job of servicing the major centres, and we're not necessarily there to compete with the big guys,” Biemann said.
“We're focusing a little bit on landing at really small airports that don't have any of the service of the big guys.”
Biemann cautions that passengers entering the U.S. must be in compliance with any COVID-19 protocols currently in place, and the burden of proof is with the traveller and not the airline.
But in seeking to make the process as stress-free as possible, Biemann said that, after landing, the Shaire plane will remain on site until the client clears customs before leaving and returning to the Sault.
“If you don't get through because of some COVID-related reason, you can come back to Canada and not be stranded,” Biemann said.
“It's an extra layer of comfort – probably something temporary, but something we can offer now.”
Currently, Shaire employs 10 and the company is actively recruiting more pilots and first officers.
Many of the latter are recent graduates of Sault College's aviation program, who arrived in the Sault as students and decided to stay for work. It's a point of pride for Biemann and his partners that they're able to contribute to helping the city and its workforce grow.
Maintenance services are being completed through local provider JD Aero, and if business continues as briskly as it's started, he estimates Shaire could be adding to its fleet as early as this fall.
Biemann sees untapped potential in the resource-related industries – mining, forestry, engineering, construction – in serving travellers who need to travel north to meet with clients, check on the progress of projects, or source out new business opportunities.
With the ability to land on any turf and just a few thousand feet of runway, the Cessna can easily fly into remote communities that are otherwise difficult to access.
“The price is obviously very favourable on commercial flights, and that's hard to compete with, but some of these other amenities are a tremendous advantage for people,” Biemann said.
“I think passengers, once they try and experience this type of flight, will really have a hard time jumping on commercial flights.”