As Elite Air lent a hand in late August delivering hurricane relief supplies in the Houston area, where several of the company’s aircraft are based, another massive storm bore down on its headquarters. Late changes to forecasts showed Hurricane Irma’s path would be directly through the Tampa Bay Area. And the race was on for people to get out of Florida.
“We booked at least nine trips in the eight hours after the forecasts changed,” Sales Director AJ Becker said.
That was only the beginning. Elite Air sold dozens of additional charters out of Florida and the Caribbean in the days before the storm. Industry-wide, demand for charters was reported to have doubled or tripled during the week.
And while the trips Elite Air flew were commercial not humanitarian, CEO Gray Gibbs said the company didn’t change its pricing a bit. A Sept. 6 CNBC report indicated some charter companies were charging 30% more than their standard fares.
“There were a lot of aviation companies gouging folks to escape to safety, but that’s not the way we do business,” Gibbs said. “We sold these trips during extremely high volume periods and in distress without raising prices a dollar.”
Meanwhile in Texas, communities were struggling to deal with the massive amounts of flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. The hurricane, which dropped more than 40 inches of rain in multiple areas over four days from Aug. 25 to 29, pushed at least 30,000 people out of their homes. More than 17,000 rescues were required to save those trapped inside.
Elite Air was able to do its small part in assisting in the relief effort, delivering supplies to hard hit areas on multiple deadhead legs.
“Considering the amount of devastation the people of Texas experienced and the long recovery they face ahead, it was a small service,” Becker said. “But we were happy to help and hope those supplies got to someone in need.”