Many years ago, Stratos Jet Charters CEO and founder Joel Thomas embarked on a journey to build a better jet charter company at the advice of his father. We asked Thomas how that journey began and how it’s influenced him over the years. 

Since one of our values is transparency, we wanted to share that conversation with you. Here’s how it went:

Q: How did you get to where you are today?

A: When I was young, my dad became a private pilot. By the time I was in middle school, he had bought his own plane, a 1960 M35 V-tail Bonanza. I grew up hanging around the airport, and we were always tinkering around on the plane. I was always begging him to take me for rides to do a touch-n-go in the pattern. It was such a great way to spend time with my dad.

In truth, I never really wanted to be a professional pilot. Dad would always tell me that “the best part about being in GA is that we get to do this; we don’t have to do it.” That was really in reference to flying when the weather wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be, but I think it shaped me quite a bit.  

In college, I took the typical business/finance route. Even though I loved aviation, I didn’t really think of business aviation as a career path. Roughly a year-and-a-half after graduation, I was at the airport when my then-girlfriend called me and asked if I could help her find a private flight for her boss. I dove in.

Thomas has spent the last 16 years living up to his dad’s challenge to ‘build a better jet charter company.’

That experience opened my eyes to the business aviation community. My dad had watched me help secure a flight for my girlfriend’s boss and became interested in what I was doing and how it all came together. When the plane was off, my dad leaned in and said to me, “Son, you can build a better jet charter company than this.” 

I believed him, and I’ve spent the past 15 years living up to that challenge.

Q: What do you think is the most fascinating part of your typical workday as a private jet CEO?

A: I think most people would give an answer related to the planes and the freedom to travel on a whim. But for me, it’s the people we serve. We get to connect with some amazing people. Nearly every single client we serve has a story of taking a risk on an idea, overcoming adversity and being stretched in so many ways. For the most part, they have committed their lives to pursue excellence and serving others. I really respect that.

Over the years, I have been blessed to get very close with some amazing people who have helped shape my professional views. One of the most important things I’ve learned through these interactions, though, is to invest in others. I fully believe that connecting with so many different entrepreneurs and leaders has been the greatest education anyone could hope for.

Q: What is the least enjoyable part of a private jet CEO’s job? 

 To be successful in such a highly competitive industry, you have to have a lot of unique qualities. You should hold a belief that what you’re doing is important, even necessary, for the overall aviation community. You should also possess a relentless determination to see your vision come to life.  

As a private jet CEO, it is my responsibility to build the best possible team to execute our company’s vision. Hiring, screening, and interviewing are definitely the parts of the job I like the least. With that said, making the right decisions and bringing the best candidates aboard my team is a tremendous reward. An excellent new hire brings tremendous value to our culture and expands our ability to serve our rapidly growing client base. 

Q: If you could start all over and choose a new career path, what would it be?

 That’s a tough question. Sometimes when I think about life outside of Stratos, I wonder what it would be like and what would I be doing to live a fulfilled life. I like to think that I would be a professional surfer and tennis player. They get to travel to the greatest places on earth and have all the fun!

 Q: We know you’re a pilot. Talk us through your flying routine.

I’m a G36 Bonanza owner, so my typical routine is oriented around analyzing the weather, planning my flight and chair flying, which means visualizing the flight and analyzing what my options for contingency plans are all along the way before I ever get in the plane.  When I’m a passenger, I have a tendency to evaluate what the crew is doing and what I can learn from them.

 Q: And finally, what’s your favorite inflight meal?

A: Nearly every time I fly, I bring Cheez-its and a bottle of water with me.


Not too long ago, our private jet CEO wrote a post discussing some of the things clients need to know before purchasing a jet card. Read it here: Jet Cards Exposed: Everything you Need to Know. 


Ready to Soar Higher with Stratos? Reach out for a complimentary private jet charter quote and let us show you the white glove experience firsthand: (888) 593-9066.