Business aviation is an intriguing industry. From an outside eye, it is difficult to get an overall view of all the players. From air brokers to airlines, the links in the chain cooperate to organise a tailor-made flight: 1000 people work together to help make a flight smoothly. We will explain you how the main players in business aviation work.
The world of private jets in a few figures
Business aviation represents all custom-made flights carried out for non-tourist purposes. This branch of air transport represents all private jet flights booked with one of the 850 air operators on the market.
The notion of public transport, bases of business aviation
All business aviation flights are public transport flights and respect the definition given by the Civil Aviation Code. Article L330-1 of the Civil Aviation Code defines public transport (TP) or public passenger transport (TPP): “Public air transport consists of transporting passengers or freight by aircraft, from a point of origin to a point of destination, for payment. The activity of public air carrier is subject to the holding of an operating licence and an air operator’s certificate (AOC) issued by the administrative authority under conditions laid down by decree in the Council of State and in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EEC) No 2407/92 of 23 July 1992 on licensing of air carriers, annexed to this code. »
A major development in the 1990s
Launched in the 1960s in the United States, business aviation was quickly exported to Europe. The first air brokers arrived in France in the 1990s to meet several needs:
- To provide a fast and cost-effective rental solution
- Responding to the demands of large groups that separated from their own aircraft because they were too expensive.
- Offer much more flexible flights than commercial flights.
AEROAFFAIRES and Chapman Freeborn were the pioneers of private jet rentals in Europe. Gradually, the market developed. Several entrepreneurs and investors embarked on this adventure and today, a dozen business aviation brokers are present in France.
Figures in constant evolution
– More than $20 billion in sales each year.
– Europe accounted for more than 800,000 private jet flights in 2019.
– France is the European country with the highest number of private jet movements (150,000 movements) ahead of Germany and the United Kingdom.
– Paris-le Bourget is Europe’s busiest airport for business aviation: 180,000 passengers per year and more than 53,000 movements in 2019.
The benefits of tailor-made aviation for passengers
- Time saving: 15 minutes waiting on average before the plane takes off.
- Flexibility: 3000 airports accessible by private aircraft in Europe compared to 300 with a commercial flight.
- Productivity: 90% of passengers take advantage of the quietness of the private jet cabins to work.
- Comfort: access to the privileged spaces offered by private terminals. During your flight, the modern and comfortable cabin offers you a relaxing experience.
- Confidentiality: private spaces allow you to avoid contact with other people. In addition, in some airports such as Cannes, you can drive to the plane’s doors.
- VIP services: Transfer by car or helicopter, tailor-made catering, special transport of goods: all passenger requests are possible.
How to book your private jet flight?
Airlines, brokers and private terminals are interdependent and cooperate. These 3 main actors of business aviation can charter a private jet however, in practice, the broker is best able to meet the client’s booking request. Here is how it works:
The broker, privileged interlocutor of the customer and the passenger
The broker’s role in the booking of a private jet
The air broker is a business contributor for airlines. He is in charge of finding clients and organizing the flight on behalf of his client. He is considered as a facilitator for the passengers’ requests and adapts by making tailor-made solutions for each client. François Xavier Clerc, CEO of AEROAFFAIRES explains: “As a broker, we enable you to access thousands of aircraft and airports through a single contact. We accompany you in your booking with an operational follow-up before, during and after your flight. »
Brokers have access to proprietary technology that allows them to identify all available aircraft in real time around the world. They cross-check more than 7,000 aircraft from 1,200 airlines to propose the best positioned aircraft that best meets customer requirements. For example:
- an airline based in Paris, will not necessarily be the most interesting financially if these planes are flying from Nice, Ibiza or London. However, thanks to the broker, he can compare the airlines and find the closest plane to you.
- The broker offers you all types of aircraft and will enable you to cover all your needs. A turboprop if it is a short runway (Altiport of Courchevel), an ultra-light private jet if there are only 2 people, a private jet of intermediate size if your journey is more than 4000km or if there are more than 8 passengers to transport and a regional plane for a group of 25 people. This way, you are able to obtain the ideal aircraft for the needs of your flight.
- As air missions do not have the same criteria (number of passengers that vary, mountain flights, short runways, group flights, air freight…), the broker will always have an alternative to propose.
As soon as the client confirms the flight, the broker will carry out all the checks with the airline company to make sure that the aircraft is available as well as the crews and that the airports have slots at the desired times. Once this check has been made, the air operators send all the information necessary for take-off to the private terminals so that they can prepare the flight. The broker then remains in contact with the private terminal before and during the flight to offer ground assistance. Air brokers offer additional services such as concierge services, hotel reservations, yacht charter, etc.
The broker, guarantor of flight safety
The broker is liable in case of incidents. He checks the company’s Air Operator Certificate to ensure that all flights offered by the company meet the standards of maintenance, pilot certification etc. The broker must therefore choose his airline operator carefully and maintain a relationship of trust with their safety policy. In addition, the broker systematically verifies that the aircraft and the airline have the necessary insurance. The minimum amounts are set between 10 million for small aircraft and 500 million for larger aircraft. In addition, an additional coverage of 5 million is added by the broker in order to make him more responsible.
However, the profession of broker is not yet regulated. Companies subject themselves to an activity audit in order to assess corporate culture, organisation and financial stability. In addition, all good brokers are members of professional associations: the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Through these associations, partnerships are developed and discussions lead to the resolution of issues specific to business aviation. Aware of current issues, brokers are committed to improving the passenger experience while taking action to save the planet.
The airlines, responsible of the operational part
The role of the airline in the booking of a flight
More than 20,000 private jets fly around the world. Airlines thus have their own fleet of aircraft with their own or privately owned aircraft. This trick allows private owners to smooth out annual maintenance costs. St. Clair group explains, “For $1.5 million, you get a used Cessna Citation Mustang at full capacity, parts and labour included. Add to that the annual fixed costs, in the order of 350,000 euros, including the salaries of three crew members, insurance, airport assistance… and the cost per flight hour, around 1,000 euros. On this basis, we rent the aircraft at 1,950 euros per hour and pay 1,750 euros to the owner, who thus achieves a margin of 750 euros per flight hour. If we rent his aircraft 350 to 400 hours a year, he can cover the fixed costs and use his aircraft at cost price”.
Airline operators offer aircraft availability and rates to brokers. Airlines rarely have direct customers because they have to manage their fleet, crew scheduling and operations first and foremost. This is why brokers assist customers in booking a flight by optimizing the available offers with an overview of all aircraft available for demand.
After validation of the flight and the airports, the operators prepare the aircraft with the associated crew as well as the flight plan. They check that all pilot, crew member and aircraft schedules are coordinated so as not to cause any take-off delays. They then transmit the flight plan to the passengers, brokers, and private terminals that take over.
The airline, subject to lot of regulations
As managers of aircraft, airlines have many responsibilities. They must obtain the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) linked to the concept of common carrier. This certificate authorizes them to carry passengers in aircraft. This approval proves that the airline meets in all respects the requirements of safety, financial investment, internal organisation, team training and operational skills ensuring passengers a quality flight. The maintenance department carries out all overhauls, from daily follow-up to major visits. Failure to carry out a technical inspection can lead to savings in the short term. However, in the long term, it causes a safety defect and the aircraft owes its longevity only to regular checks carried out by professionals. This differentiates airlines such as Vistajet or Netjet from aircraft owners who practice co-piloting.
Moreover, when the airline operates a new aircraft, the pilot at the controls of this aircraft will remain the same forever: experience and technical mastery of the aircraft are essential for a safe and personalised flight. As guarantors of safety, airlines make every effort to ensure that the customer has 100% confidence in them. Airlines communicate regularly on their figures and give customers the possibility to consult in real time, on the internet, all the expenses incurred for an aircraft.
In each country, authorities monitor air traffic and ensure compliance with local regulations. In France, the DGAC (Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile) controls the airspace as well as business aviation players. These missions are manifold: controlling aviation safety and security, supervising the ecological transition, monitoring all air navigation, regulating air transport, ensuring pilot training, promoting French know-how internationally and compensating passengers in the event of flight delays or cancellations.
The role of handling, terminals in airports
Handling, also known as FBO (fixed based operator) or private terminals are private areas located in the airport specially dedicated to business aviation. As soon as the airlines’ request is received, the Handling staff organise the flight. Contracts are signed between the terminals and the airlines. The FBOs are in charge of fueling, aircraft parking and hangars, cleaning and, if necessary, take care of aircraft maintenance.
The FBOs are the client’s privileged interlocutors. They welcome passengers in the VIP lounges, organise the aircraft according to the customer’s wishes, prepare the holds for special cargo transport and carry out security and immigration checks at customs.
JETEX, Skyvalet and Signature are the main FBOs on the market. They are the perfect intermediary between airlines, customs, passengers, brokers, airport and concierge services.
So what to remember?
Business aviation brings together many players, all coordinated to deliver the best customer experience. Each player is interdependent and supportive of the other, all aware that they need each other for the business aviation market to function on a sustainable basis. The broker plays the leading role as the conductor of the booking process. The airline is responsible for the entire aviation part and the private terminals take care of the flight preparation before take-off.
Today, in a period of health crisis with the coronavirus, a jump of 20 to 25% of flights in private jets has been recorded. This is due to the increase in the number of medical evacuations, the intensification of air freight and the fear of passengers of being in contact with other people. Business aviation is thus playing a key role in this unprecedented crisis.