With pearly-white hangar floors and a private lounge stocked with comfy furniture, it's not too hard to believe that Jet Linx spent more than $1 million refurbishing its Lambert-St. Louis Airport terminal.
The Omaha-based private jet company spent the last few months sprucing up the former home of the Missouri National Guard. The terminal's stylishness is part of the company's appeal. Even the bathrooms have an elegant touch.
But Jim Mauze, president and base partner of Jet Linx St. Louis, said his company is attracting attention for more than just coziness.
“We think it’s great news for the business community,” Mauze said. “We’ve worked with the Regional Business Council. One of the challenges that they’ve had is they have vendors that want to be in St. Louis for meetings. And flying commercial – where they have to connect through another marketplace – prevents opportunities for employment and meeting and sales growth.”
Jet Linx started operating at Lambert last fall, but just recently finished renovating its terminal. The company has more than 600 customers across the county. And, while he didn’t specify how many have signed up in St. Louis, Mauze said the company is exceeding their expectations.
Mauze said most corporations who use private air travel go to Spirit of St. Louis airport in Chesterfield. But the fact that Jet Linx is at Lambert means companies or individuals that live in the city of St. Louis or Clayton’s central business district don’t have to travel as far.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Mauze said.
Daniel Rust of the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Center for Transportation Studies, said Lambert used to have much more private airplane flights. He said the emergence of commercial airlines like TWA caused private flights to gravitate to Spirit.
However, when TWA was acquired by American Airlines in 2001, Rust said Lambert eventually became more and more underutilized. And that made it a less attractive option for corporations.
"It’s just part of that overall mix of air services that I think we really have to have if we really want to compete in the marketplace today," said Rust, who teaches classes on aviation at UMSL. "We’ve seen so many companies exit St. Louis. And one of the reasons given is we just don’t have the flights and the connections that we have here at Lambert."
Rust went onto say that businesses might have chosen to locate in central and western St. Louis County so they could be close to Spirit Airport. He said even “smaller companies that I know of that are located around Chesterfield or St. Charles County use charter [planes] two to three times of a month.”
“I’m a firm believer in the value of private aircraft, private jets, charter business for doing business,” Rust said. “It’s just vital to their business model to be productive. And I think it’s very much important to have facilities -- say like we have at Spirit and now with Jet Linx at Lambert -- to attract businesses. Because we don’t have that giant hub here commercially at Lambert that we used to have.”
During a groundbreaking event last year, airport officials were bullish about Jet Linx’s arrival. Lambert Director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge said that Jet Linx would “diversify” the airport’s service “to reach all aspects that we can.”
Mauze echoed those sentiments.
“Being able to fly in direct to St. Louis is a huge boon for businesses in the area,” he said.