We Have Lift Off
From frustrated business traveler to owner of an airline, Trey Fayard, CEO of GLO Airlines, shares his turbulent path to success.
Traveling between midsize Southern cities can be a challenge for business travelers. Driving takes up valuable time, and time is money. Very few airlines offer flights between hubs like New Orleans, Memphis and Little Rock, but a new startup has changed that, and in the process, brought increased regional business to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
GLO airline offers daily nonstop flights from its home base in New Orleans to Little Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Shreveport, Louisiana. Founded in 2013 by Louisiana native Calvin Clifford “Trey” Fayard III, its inaugural flight took place in November 2015 from New Orleans to Little Rock’s Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. Since then, GLO has added more itineraries, and after only six months of operations, the company is already looking to add more.
CEO Fayard seems well-suited to this venture. He holds a bachelor’s in political science from Southern Methodist University; studied shipping, trade and finance at City University London; and also holds a J.D. from Tulane University. He spent many years as a “road warrior” during his early career and felt the frustration and need for direct regional flights firsthand. Having just stepped off a flight, he took the time to share his story with Biz New Orleans.
Biz New Orleans: What does a typical day look like for you?
Trey Fayard: I’m up at 4:35 a.m. I check overnight emails and bookings, take a quick shower and I’m off to the ramp at MSY (Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport). I check in with maintenance and see how the ops are shaping up for the day. Then I check in with our team, map out the day and take it as it comes.
There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ day in the airline business. There is always something going on that you really did not expect. Although the longer we do this, the more that is not unexpected because we pretty much have experienced it all. I try to get to sleep after the last flights come in and the schedule closes out for us.
“Looking back at it, we had about a couple hundred items on our checklist, and that list just ballooned,” says Fayard.
Biz: What inspired you to found GLO in 2013?
TF: I lost my mind, I guess! Just kidding. It was actually a factor of, ‘I can’t get there from here’ and it started making me look at how to solve that issue. And I was just such a good lawyer, I had to start an airline.
Biz: What were the challenges in starting your business, and now running it? Is there one specific challenge you are especially proud of overcoming?
TF: Frankly, going into this, I had no idea about getting into this particular business. It’s like juggling eight balls at once and not knowing how to juggle. The regulatory limits are tremendous. Setting up the operations when you start from scratch, it’s pretty overwhelming. Looking back at it, we had about a couple hundred items on our checklist, and that list just ballooned.
The support of the employees and partners has been critical. People going above and beyond has been an amazing part of the process.
The biggest challenge is the sheer scope of having to do it every day. We worked so hard for the first flight and we were celebratory afterward. Then, at 3 o’clock in the morning, it hit me that we had to do it again in a few hours.
Another challenge is putting together the logistics and all of the moving parts. At the end of the day you are delivering a service to customers, and we want to deliver a high standard to our customers. We are trying to consistently deliver on our value proposition and provide a high level of service that our customers have come to expect.
I really cannot imagine a harder business to get started. They always say hotels and restaurants are the toughest (businesses to start). If that is the case, I feel like I could open 10 hotels and a chain of restaurants after this whole experience.
Biz: What was your experience of the first flight in November 2015? How did you feel during it?
TF: It was a gorgeous fall Sunday in Louisiana. It was an exciting day here and the same in Little Rock. It was cloudy early in the day and then the weather cleared. We had a full aircraft of 30 happy people who landed on time in Little Rock.
I felt total elation! And a sense of achievement, I guess. It was great to share it with friends and family, and of course, our paying customers.
“We worked so hard for the first flight and we were celebratory afterward. Then, at 3 o’clock in the morning, it hit me that we had to do it again in a few hours.”
Biz: How did you choose the name GLO?
TF: GLO is what happens when you have an idea, a spark in your imagination if you will, and you hope that spark starts a flame. Hence, it GLOs.
Biz: What is Corporate Flight Management and how does your partnership with them work?
TF: Corporate Flight Management, or CFM, is our operator of the aircraft. They are responsible for flying the planes as our schedule dictates. They are great partners and run an outstanding operation in their own right. It has been a great partnership and one we hope to carry on for years to come.
Biz: What has been your biggest achievement to date with GLO?
TF: Well, I got married in the middle of this whole thing so that was really wonderful. As far as GLO, getting the first flight off the ground was pretty amazing. All of a sudden it hit me as we took off from MSY that ‘Wow, we did it.’ But then the reality set in that we had to do it all again the very next day!
Our whole team spent years building to flight No. 1, and that was a hell of an achievement. But it was the reality that it wasn’t just one flight, and we had many more ahead of us.
Biz: What are your plans for further expansion? Where do you see GLO in 10 years?
TF: We have identified a few more markets and hope to bring in our fourth aircraft in the next few months. This will help us in expanding at a measured pace. We envision expanding operations in New Orleans and other cities, especially offering greater connectivity to the Gulf and Mid-South.
In 10 years we will be a totally developed regional airline, giving the customers what they ask for and being a bright spot not just for New Orleans but for all for all the cities we serve.
In the next decade we want to be in dozens of cities. There’s an unlimited number of opportunities as other airlines consolidate. It opens the door for regional carriers like ours. The growth potential is there and we think it is even better going forward.
GLO Airlines’ fleet includes three, 30-passenger Saab 340B aircraft.
Biz: Do you plan to keep GLO headquartered in New Orleans?
TF: I have no plans to move the company. I’m a Louisiana guy, and I love the state. The market opportunity is here. People don’t fly planes for fun, they do it for business. The economic opportunity was here in New Orleans, and we’ll keep the business here.
Air service is a nonpartisan issue, and most people get behind it. It makes economic sense and the market presented itself here for GLO, and it’s proving to be a great opportunity for us, the airport and the people of Louisiana. We’re excited to be here.
Biz: What has been your economic impact on New Orleans? Are the numbers on your website still current, with 30 direct and 110 indirect jobs?
TF: I believe we are up to 34 direct jobs now. One hundred and ten still holds, although with the addition of Destin, we are responsible for another six or seven folks.
We’ve done independent studies on our economic impact, and each city is unique. Every time you add a new nonstop flight to a destination, the economic impact is in the tens of millions of dollars. We had people move to New Orleans to take jobs to work for us. When you look at our network — with five cities and the airline based here — the amount of revenue contributed to the city is quite large. With the flow of people commuting, whether for business or pleasure, and then bringing those additional people to New Orleans, the economic impact is gigantic.
Of course once they’re here, they are staying in hotels, renting cars, eating at restaurants, and so on. It’s hard to pin down a specific economic impact in that sense, but it’s clear we are generating new revenue for the area.
Biz: What is something important you want people to know about GLO?
TF: Our biggest thing is that we are still very new. We’re still very young and we are trying to get the public educated about these nonstop flights. We want people to know there is a new travel option and we’d be delighted to be of service.
Biz: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
TF: Do not stop trying, ever. You will have the last laugh, win or lose. No one hates you if you fail and you tried. Go for it and you will be successful.
Adopt a dog, find a good bourbon you like, marry your best friend and fight like hell. Nothing is easy. If it was, there would be a dozen airlines based here.