Interview with Dennis Göppel, Aviation Specialist
- 8 min read
It was obvious I would end up in the aviation sector as I always had an enormous passion for commercial aviation. Since I was little I collected aircraft models, I watched aircraft at airports, and I followed airline companies in their development. I always assumed I wanted to become a pilot, but then I found out that I wanted to focus more on strategy at management level. I loved exploring countries and cultures; that’s something really special about the international aviation environment.
The international character of Hotelschool The Hague appealed to me, especially the solid base of theory combined with practical education and international internships. I was a very motivated student, passed all the exams at the first attempt and had good grades. Throughout my study at Hotelschool The Hague, I was already focused on a future career in aviation. Every step I took, my internships, my projects, reports, they were all aimed towards my future career. For my first internship, I was persistent on finding an internship at an international business hub. That’s why I chose Dubai; it’s an international city and environment to work in. I ended up working for the Jumeirah Group at the Madinat Jumeirah Resort. I worked 11 hours a day, six days a week and I met very interesting people.
For my management internship, I naturally wanted to find a company in aviation, hoping I could eventually stay there and get a contract. I have to thank Elina Sperth, the placement coordinator at Hotelschool The Hague, she knew someone at PrivatAir in Geneva, Switzerland. Subsequently, I started my internship in Geneva. I was involved in restructuring a division of the company called Business Aviation (meaning private jets). The internship was great, as PrivatAir, renowned in both business and commercial aviation, has a very high service level and quality standards, and deals with ultra-high net worth individuals and VIP clients (who occasionally already happened to be the same clients as the VIP clients I worked with in Dubai). After my internship, PrivatAir offered me a full time contract. I graduated in July, went on vacation in August and started as a fulltime employee in September 2011.
I started as “Manager Business Aviation” and grew from there into “Manager Aircraft Management and Aircraft Sales”. Clients from all around the world come to us for aircraft sales and acquisition, aircraft management and aircraft charter services. PrivatAir provides complete acquisition, sales and support services for (heavy) business jet owners. At the other end, we work with customers who can afford to charter a private jet, type Boeing or Airbus, for private use. To put it simply: we work with extremely wealthy people - an international clientele with an emphasis on Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Our business can be very delicate and discrete. When you deal with numbers that can (sometimes) exceed €100 million (especially in aircraft trading), you need a solid partner like PrivatAir. The company's wide range of clients include royalty, heads of state, public officials, celebrities from the arts, sports and entertainment industries, captains of industry and private aircraft owners. When I started, naturally this environment was quite surreal but after a while you get used to it. You get familiar with the clientele and the international character of the company.
After 4 years, I was recently promoted to “Director Aircraft Management & Aircraft Sales”, heading the Aircraft Sales and Aircraft Management department. My responsibilities are more or less the same, but now I work on a more strategic level. In addition, I also serve as Chief Operating Officer for AirClub, the leading corporate jet alliance. The idea behind AirClub is to become the leading alliance within the sector of Business Aviation (so private jets). Currently I am working on global coverage, even expanding to the US. The alliance is still in a startup phase; however, AirClub already represents around 100 private jets in Europe and a few in the United States.
My average workweek can be quite surreal sometimes. If you think about it, it is quite bizarre to have business meetings on a mega yacht in Monaco or in a palace in Dubai. However, it does enable me to self-reflect. It is interesting to see that extreme wealth comes with extreme power and responsibility. Actually, it makes me very happy with the (normal) life I have. I enjoy going back to my hometown (Venlo) in the weekend, spending time with my family and friends, or meeting new people at my favorite bar around the corner.
Recently I travelled around the world in two weeks together with a colleague also from Hotelschool The Hague. Unfortunately I can’t take a lot of vacation, so we carefully planned it and decided to go for it. It was crazy, travelling almost 40,000 kilometers around the world, following the Equator. We started in Geneva, went to Frankfurt, Singapore, Sydney, Auckland, Tahiti, Los Angeles and Las Vegas before we returned to Geneva again. When we came back it felt like we had traveled for three months.
My advice: don’t only look at tomorrow, but also at the day after. Use the elements from your education that fit with your plans for the future and focus on those, use them to your advantage. Additionally, feel privileged to be able to study at Hotelschool The Hague. You are the lucky ones, being able to get an education, being able to study: not everyone has that opportunity!