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Jennifer Liotta – Volato

Volato takes flight with legal leader’s M&A and contract support

Jennifer Liotta enjoyed helping companies and organizations take flight well before she joined Volato, a private aviation company founded in 2021. 

In fact, she and her husband, Volato co-founder and CEO Matt Liotta, once transformed an aircraft maintenance shop into a flight school in St. Augustine, Florida.

As vice president of legal, Liotta is helping Volato chart its course as a private charter provider offering products including a fractional ownership program, a jet card, membership program, management services for aircraft owners and general charter services.

Jennifer Liotta | Vice President of Legal | Volato

Jennifer Liotta | Vice President of Legal | Volato

Liotta also led the company’s HR for several months in 2021 while managing outside counsel and provided legal support for Volato’s 2022 acquisition of Gulf Coast Aviation.

She’s currently supporting the company’s efforts to go public, which is expected to occur later this year after Volato reached an agreement with PROOF Acquisition Corp I, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

“I enjoy working with companies that are looking to establish and build momentum,” she says. “It can be startups or special projects for companies for things that didn’t exist before.”

Comfortable, convenient and sustainable 

Currently headquartered in Atlanta, Volato operates across the contiguous U.S., the Bahamas and beyond. Its fleet is currently comprised of 17 HondaJets with 24 more on order.

There’s also a managed fleet of larger cabin aircraft, and in the first quarter of 2024, Volato will begin taking delivery of four new Gulfstream G280 aircraft that can carry up to 10 passengers. HondaJets have a capacity of four and are best suited for flights up to two hours, Liotta says.

Jennifer Liotta | Vice President of Legal | Volato

When the company was founded, Liotta says it was focused on serving its Part 135 fractional program owners. Part 135 is the U.S. Federal Aviation administration’s body of regulations for commercial on-demand air charter.

Fractional ownership is common, but Volato’s program is unique because fractional owners enjoy unlimited flight hours and revenue sharing from certain charters using their aircraft, Liotta says.

The company’s aircraft are among the most fuel efficient in the industry, and Volato also offsets 100 percent of the CO2 its HondaJet fleet generates through a partnership with 4AIR, which offers a variety of carbon offsets including an industry cap and trade option on sustainable aviation fuel.

Expanding the base 

Volato’s acquisition of Houston-based Gulf Coast Aviation from its founders, Steve and Debbie Holmes, enabled that couple to retire while providing a base for Volato at that city’s William P. Hobby International Airport—part of the second busiest market for private aviation in the U.S.

The acquisition added four new managed aircraft and more than 15 employees. Liotta says the deal couldn’t have been made without the guidance and due diligence from JetLaw, a Washington, D.C., firm that specializes in aviation law.

Jennifer Liotta | Vice President of Legal | Volato

Attorneys from JetLaw provided financial and regulatory analysis, including looking at whether Gulf Coast Aviation had any pending or prior issues with the Federal Aviation Administration, while making onsite visits to Houston, too.

She’s worked with JetLaw since joining Volato on areas including aircraft purchase agreements and charter services contracts for the fractional ownership program—even before the company had its first plane.

The benefits of stretching  

In the past year, Volato launched its Stretch Jet Card and Insider Membership Program and has begun to add more third-party charters, too.

The Volato Stretch Jet Card rewards customers for being flexible with their itineraries. Cardholders request a date, time and destination for a flight. Volato will confirm the itinerary 12 hours before a flight. If the company requests a change for flight times or to use an alternative nearby airport, the customer is rewarded with flight time credits for future travel. The length of the credit is based on the length of the stretch for hours and any airport changes.

Jennifer Liotta | Vice President of Legal | Volato

The Volato Insider is a tiered deposit program in which customers between or inside designated city zones pay capped charter rates on HondaJet flights.

Developing the programs required Liotta to work with Volato’s teams in finance, operations, marketing and customer service to define the services and terms, how to present it to customers and how cardholders would be billed.

Liotta also oversees Volato’s trademark portfolio development and matters including investments, financings, tax matters and corporate governance. She says working with Womble Bond Dickinson as outside counsel is crucial for managing these areas.

“Womble has been an excellent firm partner for us,” Liotta says. “They have deep expertise and deliver quality work product and are always responsive to our needs.”

Spreading her wings 

Though Liotta enjoys providing the legal counsel and support for fledgling organizations, the Idaho native didn’t set out to have a legal career.

However, after earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from The College of Idaho in 1999 and working in the corporate world, including as a health care analyst for Health Market Insights, she knew she needed an advanced degree. She also decided a law degree was better suited for her.

“It’s a good fit for me because I enjoy the hard skills aspects of drafting and analysis,” she says. “It’s like solving a puzzle as you gather facts and determine what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Liotta entered Emory University School of Law in Atlanta in 2003 and took a special interest in intellectual property law. She served as an intern at Pharmasset Inc. and a year later, interned for Judge Anne Barnes at the Court of Appeals for the State of Georgia.

After earning her J.D. in 2006, Liotta served as a law clerk for Judge Leonard Davis in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In September 2007, she joined Alston & Bird as an associate, where she practiced and litigated IP law.

Her expertise in IP law came to the fore when Liotta joined the Georgia Tech Research Corp. Office of Industry Engagement, which is part of the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a licensing associate from January 2013 to September 2014, she helped a university professor launch a startup using technology for electric motors he’d invented and get his innovation licensed.

Before getting recruited as Volato’s 11th employee, Liotta managed her private practice and was retained by a manufacturer and then a software company, to build and improve their European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulations compliance programs. She was also general counsel or legal director for companies including Agrinamics Inc., TriGrow Systems and Agrify Corp, which acquired TriGrow in 2019.

Liotta has grown her team with a senior corporate counsel, corporate counsel and a paralegal. Volato added an HR director in 2022, clearing her to focus on legal matters.

“My team is detail-oriented and has the good judgment to make decisions independently,” Liotta says. “We are focused on building a modern fleet, providing excellent service and sharing our success with our owners.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.

 

Published on: July 20, 2023

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