CJI Town Hall meeting looked to business aviation recovery in 2021 


Left to Right: Scott Ashton, Graham Williamson, Andy Priester

The mood was cautiously optimistic at Wednesday’s Corporate Jet Investor Town Hall online meeting, entitled ‘Around the world in 60 minutes – again’. Speakers, including Scott Ashton, CEO, Aerox (pictured left), Andy Priester CEO, Priester Aviation (pictured right), and Graham Williamson, ACASS Ireland President (centre), were hopeful the industry would return to pre-Covid levels of activity sometime next year. 

 Ashton predicted a return to 2019 business  levels would arrive sometime between the last quarter 2021 and the first quarter of 2022: “I think that’s what it’s going to take:  people  have to be comfortable going places. Not necessarily business aviation over airline travel, It is really going to see places, going to see customers and doing business face-to-face.” He also believed those who left the comfort of their offices first, to meet clients face-to-face, would benefit from a first mover advantage. 

 Ashton agreed with fellow speaker, Mike Francis, First Republic Bank’s MD aviation/marine finance,  that there are limitations in technology at present,which heightens the risk factor for those looking to engage in the industry. “I think business people will get comfortable with the technology and then there is going to be a break out. Where somebody says screw that: I’m going to see my customer face-to-face they’re going to start winning deals and we are going to get back to business.” said Ashton. 

 Ashton continued: “You see now where we are going to get back to 75% or 80% but to get back to where we were in 2019 is going to take a little bit longer.” 

Priester shared his cautious optimism.  Priester Aviation has been in existence since 1945 and weathered many a global crisis. Priester noted that, as  with the drop in activity surrounding the terrorist attacks of 9/11, business returns once there is confidence in guarantees over security and safety.  

 “ I echo what Scott hints at,” said Priester, “Our industry is going to be in some rough waters where things are going to be slow, but certainly better than where they were a couple months ago for the rest of the year. Once you get past the uncertainty of the [US Presidential] elections. We are going to see a confluence of events. We are going to see people feeling okay about the corporate jet industry; we are going to see the economy in a pretty good state; hopefully we wind up a step closer to a vaccine.  

 “So, we are really looking at Q1 2021 and Q2 2021 as having the opportunity for some really strong growth. Will it be back to 2019 levels? Probably not but I think can wind up there in the same time frame as Scott had said,” concluded Priester. 

 This edition of CJI Town Hall was sponsored by the newly-launched ACASS Ireland, its new President, Graham Williamson mentioned the challenges that Brexit will pose to business aviation as it looks past Covid-19. “I believe it will not be in the EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency], I think we all have now concluded it will sit outside that structure which will have implications for operators.” 

 Williamson continued: “There will be challenges for free circulation around Europe. I think that Britain should have embraced EASA and I hope that is something that could happen in the future. [For now]It is going to be a challenge.” Read more about the launch of ACASS Ireland here.

 Meanwhile, you can listen to all our speakers at this week’s Town Hall by booking your free place at the one-hour event here