Sales Manager Raphael Heydemann was raised in Paris. He has always had a passion for life and a wanderlust to see more of the world. Heydemann learned English while backpacking and working in Australia obtained his BBA in hospitality from Les Roches in Switzerland, and had a host of internships at Crans-Montana, Marbella, Dubai, Shanghai, and Barcelona. He saw an opportunity with LunaJets to apply his hospitality and management skills in a dynamic environment.
Q: When did you first hear about LunaJets?
A friend said that I should look at LunaJets when I graduated from Les Roches, so I applied. I came to my first interview, and at the time, they didn’t take me. Then I went back to Paris and started studying for the GMAT — an international test to apply for a Master's Degree, which is pretty intensive. A few months later, I saw that LunaJets was recruiting again, so I applied again, and they hired me in 2018.
Q: What made you pursue a career in the skies?
I didn’t want to go into the hotel sector after completing my studies in hospitality. I didn’t feel that was something really attractive to me. And I liked the atmosphere at LunaJets, which is very young and dynamic. It’s a tough job. You work a lot. It’s 24/7, but it’s exciting.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your role? What does a typical day look like for you at LunaJets?
Usually, I wake up, and the first thing I do is to check my emails on my phone for any issues—if something comes up during the night or early morning. Then, if I have a flight on that day for a client, I will check if it’s already in flight, or I’ll need to check if the aircraft is in position quickly. If all is in order, then I get ready for work. I’ll have my breakfast and set off to the office. Then we have a dynamic morning meeting with all the teams, where we share any issues or news we find interesting for everyone. Once this meeting is over, we start the process of answering our client requests and finding aircraft. Now, I’m managing a team. So I’ve got five people working with me to do that. And I also handle flights for my clients, but I’m also overlooking the team and helping them with their requests. I have lunch in the afternoon, and I get back to work. After work, I do a lot of sports. I’ve always done a lot of sports, and I started picking that up more in Australia. Nowadays, I try to leave the office at around six and go to CrossFit for about two hours and 30 minutes, depending on how much I have to do. And then, usually, I come back quickly to LunaJets because the gym is right next to the office. If I have anything I didn’t manage to finish during the day, I’ll complete that, and then I’m heading home. I return home pretty late, cook dinner and then I’m finally going to bed.
Q: What are some key skills that a Sales Manager should be equipped with?
It’s essential to be very good at problem-solving and connecting the dots. You might hear a colleague mentioning an aircraft flying into Geneva with no return flight planned, and then you speak to a client, and he says, “Oh yeah, I need a flight on that day to London.” You need to directly connect that someone else will need this aircraft. Making those quick connections and associating something you heard with something you need is key. It is a simple, smart solution that, if you go through the standard process, you might not find it. If you go on your system and then look to book via the standard way, you might not know about this aircraft heading where you need it to be, when a solution for this client is already available.
It’s important to always be aware of what’s happening and communicate with your team. I always hear everything that’s happening in the office. We have a big open space, so I’ll hear a colleague mentioning flights and talking to clients looking for a connection from London to Geneva. And then later during the day, another client in London will say, ‘I need to go to Geneva.’ I will still ask my colleague if we could connect the aircraft to serve both flights so both clients have a solution.
At LunaJets, we’re always trying to think out of the box, trying to be creative to find solutions that other brokers or companies might not have been trained to do. Some just take a request and send it through the system to the operator. If you do a little bit more work and are aware of what’s going on around you with the other aircrafts and the other brokers in the company, you can find something more suitable for both the client and for LunaJets eventually.
It’s also critical to be able to communicate well with the clients and to be honest at all times.
Q: What do you find most rewarding and satisfying in your role?
What will satisfy me the most is when you come up with an elegant solution for an issue. You have a problem or a technical issue, or a client that needs to change their plans for any reason, or the aircraft is not available, and you find a clever solution where everybody wins. LunaJets wins and the client wins. It’s very satisfying when it’s a positive outcome for everyone. When you make an extra effort and find a suitable solution for everyone, I find it very satisfying. I like it.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your career?
We have highly demanding customers, and sometimes you can be overwhelmed with issues and requests, trying to satisfy everyone. I believe you need to focus more on working with your team. Sometimes I’ll share a project, and I will ask someone to help. In the very high season, in summer, from June to September, we get so many requests that it’s hard to keep up. But you want to maintain the sense of service when clients have been faithful to you for years.
Q: Do you remember the first flight you organised for a client?
At first, you are training and working with a manager, but I remember well the first real client that I oversaw the flight. It was a flight from Geneva to Malaga. This client is still with me, and I like working with him. And I was surprised because I sent him multiple options for a flight to Morocco. It is a 30-minute flight, so you could have a six-seater aircraft that could do the flight with no issues, or a much bigger aircraft could do it. I sent him four or five options for that flight, and he chose the biggest aircraft. As a new guy, booking such a big aircraft was very exciting. I remember negotiating the rate with the operator, trying to get a discount. And this particular client flew once every two months. Then, he started to fly every month, then twice a month, or three times a month. As the relationship grew, he asked me a couple of times for a longer flight to the Maldives and to the Caribbean, trying the bigger cabins for such seven or eight-hour flight. It’s very satisfying to be able to develop the relationship, help him find the right type of aircraft, and build trust. I’m happy to find some good solutions. He was my first client and one to whom I am still very attached.
Q: LunaJets is known to offer top-notch tailormade service. How do you personalise each trip for your clients?
You get to know the clients—what they like and don’t like. Some clients don’t care too much about details, but you also have the opposite. We have some clients that are very specific about, for example, the food they have onboard. They will let you know that they want specific food, only from certain restaurants, etc.
We try to personalise each flight and satisfy the clients’ wishes. We had one client that celebrated the birthday of one of his children, and we ordered a massive plush toy that we put on board the aircraft. Another time, I had a client that asked me to book a flight to pick up a dog, but they didn't want to fly and go there themselves. The client asked me to go on the aircraft to pick up the dog; and so I went. I flew three hours to meet the person that was giving the dog away, took the dog with me, and flew back to Geneva with the dog, which was super scared on board the aircraft. It was like a tiny little puppy. But we got the dog back to the owner safely. That was a fun experience. It’s not something we do very often, but we try to have no limits when it comes to satisfying our clients. Usually, though, requests are for a gift on board the aircraft or for catering, and also when they have no requests. Let’s say the client is a big fan of a music group and we know that they are coming into the same city the client is flying to, we could buy the tickets for a concert. Or, if it’s football, the same. We will tend to do that for our best clients. Of course, we also do a lot of volume, so you cannot do those special things for everyone, but we try to make all our clients feel that we’re taking care of them the same way.
Q: What was your most memorable trip?
I traveled quite a lot when I was younger, with my mom. When I was 18, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Senegal. There was a kid with whom I exchanged letters—a penpal through a charitable association—and went there to visit Senegal. We first toured the country and after we stayed a few extra days where we went to visit my penpal in his village. I have incredible memories of that trip.
Q: What are your hobbies or favourite sports?
I do two things in life: I work and I do sports. I do CrossFit and I am very into it. Sometimes, I like to go for a swim. Actually, one of my colleagues does the Ironman challenge. So, lately, we are doing swimming during lunchtime together.
Q: What is your top travel tip?
Be spontaneous. Go off the beaten track, be spontaneous and adventurous. You always have things to discover. If you go a little bit further, you might find something really nice.
Q: What is the one item you can never fly without?
Music or a book. I will read and listen to music because I can then fall asleep quickly with the right headphones.
Q: What’s your favourite jet model - and why?
That’s a tough question because I like them all. VIP airliners, like an A319 in full VIP configuration. They have the biggest cabins and the most luxurious furnishings on board. I also like the G650 or the new G700 for longhaul. But I also enjoy a smaller one that gets you where you need to go, like the Pilatus PC-24.
Q: If you could fly anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Somewhere with a beach—like the Bahamas. I’d like to see the Caribbean. I might get a boat and sail around the islands for a few days. I’d also be glad to visit Japan in the winter. I really love skiing. I really want to go skiing in Japan, with that amazing snow, and going off slopes there. I heard from friends who have been here that it’s really cool.
Q: That answers our first rapid fire question: Snow skis or water skis?
Definitely, snow skis.
Q: Champagne or Scotch?
Q: Book or Film?
I watch more films, but when I get a book that I really want to read, I will read it anytime. So okay, let’s say a book.
Q: What are you reading right now?
HWPO (Hard Work Pays Off) by Matt Fraser. He is the five-time world champion of CrossFit and it’s basically him talking about his experience. I love it. I could read that all day long.
Q: Chocolate or Caviar?
Chocolate. I don’t usually have a dessert, but at lunch a bit of espresso with dark chocolate—85% cacao. I always have some in my drawer.
Q: Dogs or cats?
I don’t necessarily have the time to take care of one. But if my lifestyle changed a little bit, I’d definitely get a dog.