The CEO of a growing Smyrna airline and charter service, fittingly, commutes by air to work every week from New York, and is doing the job he wanted since childhood.
Matt Chaifetz took the controls of Corporate Flight Management at the Smyrna Airport a little over three years ago. Now branded Contour Airlines, the privately-owned company has tripled its volume and nearly tripled its revenue, said Chaifetz, who became an investor five years ago.
“I want us to be the best,” he said.
Commuting by airplane
Chances are you do not call Chaifetz your neighbor, as the CEO still lives in New York. He flies a Piper single-engine craft to Tennessee every week and then returns home to his family. While many adults may have said at age five they wanted to grow up to be an airline pilot, Chaifetz said he always wanted to run an airline.
“I love the business aspect of the airline industry, the strategy that’s involved,” he said.
At 13 Chaifetz started his own company, providing services to independent travel agents, since he was too young to work for an airline. His childhood entrepreneurial earnings paid for flying lessons. He sold the business when he was 18.
Chaifetz loves the industry so much that his father had a large toy airplane from his childhood converted into a lamp for his office and an airplane-shaped sign-in board from his bar mitzvah cut out and framed. And, he convinced his reluctant wife to name their five-month-old daughter Piper.
“It’s (aviation) at the center of everything that I do,” he said.
It’s not easy waking up at 4 a.m. on a Monday in New York and traveling 800 miles to be in the Smyrna office by 8:30, but he is doing what he loves.
Top 10 airline
Now that he is living out his childhood dream, business is doing well. Contour has grown to become the 10th largest airline of its kind – a Part 135 operator, which means commercial planes of 30 seats or less, Chaifetz said. Contour’s website lists its annual revenue as more than $70 million and an employee count of nearly 350. Airline service accounts for approximately 25 percent of revenue. Other small airlines on the top list include one owned by Delta Airlines and another owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
Chaifetz said he attributes the growth to the company’s management team, the foundations laid by the previous owners and a focus on taking care of customers.
Contour flies routes between Macon, Ga. and Baltimore; Tupelo, Miss. and Nashville; and Oakland and Crescent City, Calif., with prices starting as low as $49. A Phoenix route will be added next month, and Chaifetz said he hopes to add markets in West Virginia pending regulatory approval.
The company also manages private businesses’ planes, providing crews and maintenance, as well as charter service and running fixed base operations at three airports.
“We’ve benefited a lot from running our charter operation with an airline-like infrastructure,” Chaifetz said.
Contour has revitalized its fleet of 30 planes and has nearly retired its Jetstream turboprops in favor of jets.
“That’s a big step for us,” he said.
Jetstream turboprops served Contour reliably for a long time, but using newer, larger jets helps the charter side of the business, he said.
“Every aspect of the company has made huge strides over the past three years,” Chaifetz said. “We’re firing on all cylinders.”
- Murfreesboro Post