Is business aviation losing the executive?


Pilatus PC-24 over Geneva

Andrew Hughes, principal – business aviation at Mango Partners – looks back at EBACE 2017 and questions if the industry is doing enough to build the base.

By now I expect the final traces of last week’s EBACE have been removed from Palexpo at Geneva Airport. From the grand and shiny pavilions of the manufacturers to the tiny cubicles allocated to those with budgets that are somewhat less grand and shiny.

EBACE is of course one of the main annual events where the business aviation industry comes together and spends massive amounts of cash talking to itself, metaphorical slaps on the back all round as we tell ourselves what a great industry we are in and how great it is all going.

Talking to ourselves because in reality you don’t actually get many of our actual consumers trekking round the show floor collecting pens and key-rings in the handy bag that they so kindly give you at the entrance to the exhibition.

Those consumers or buyers of our services probably have better things to do with their time than to try and book an overpriced Geneva hotel room during EBACE. So talking to ourselves and enjoying the Geneva nightlife is the way to go….

Exciting industry news seemed to be a little thin on the ground, not surprising I guess given the malaise that the business aviation industry currently finds itself in.

Of course depending on who you spoke to and your own views on whether the glass is half full or half empty; you will have formed a personal opinion on how the business aviation world might develop (or not) in the coming few years.

One of the stories that did make my ears pick up was how we need to change the public perception of our industry in order to try and create some new customers, something that I am always happy to discuss at length. How to convince the frustrated business travellers of the world that we present both a practical and financially viable proposition to their travel woes, wasted time, rubbish wifi and just the sheer frustration of modern travel. Sorry, what was that? The airline IT systems has gone down again?

Business aviation isn’t just for the billionaires of the world or in the words of the current UK Labour Party election manifesto:

Business Aviation….

There was talk of downloadable tool-kits, industry statistics, presentations and more all showing us how to generate a wider mass market appeal and bring new customers to the industry. All very laudable of course give all these new consumers the ability to book a plane via an app or digital marketplace, well how can they not see the benefits?

I am sure that the EBAA Manager responsible for Irony was sitting comfortably lakeside, safe in the knowledge that this latest business initiative was off the scale on the irony meter. Business aviation for the many and not the few coming to you from Geneva the home of billionaires and millionaires alike, one of the most exclusive and expensive cities in the World.

Geneva, what better place to convince average Joe business types that business aviation is the answer to all their prayers! They will love it so make sure we have a few crates of that really expensive Champagne there as well, not Prosecco, get the good stuff 😉

Don’t get me wrong I have no problem with the message, far from it. I am passionate about the idea. We have to change the way business aviation operates, yes the billionaires at the top of the chain are important but as any Sales Guru will tell you we have to have a pipeline, pulling in the mass market at the bottom knowing that the consumer is going to increase in sophistication and value as they rise up the sales funnel. Sure not everybody will make it to the ultra long-range or private airliner top of the shop but they might move from Mustang to a Hawker or even a Challenger as their business becomes more successful boosted of course by the efficiency that only business aviation can provide!

A low volume, low margin business model is not a recipe for success, how many charter operators can say that they truly have high volume with high margin (honestly?).

Change the image, reduce the consumer price point, increase the volume and ruthlessly manage the costs of the operation, that’s never worked before in the aviation industry, has it?

Anyway, time to get back down to the lake – I’ll have a couple of those really small but reassuringly expensive bottles of Heineken….Cheers.

Andrew is head of business aviation at Mango Aviation Partners. He is an experienced executive in the business aviation sector. Andrew has a strong industry network and he is well known and respected by various regulatory authorities.

He has held a variety of senior industry positions from Operations Director through to Managing Director and has significant board level experience. More recently in the Middle East as COO for Imperial Jet with responsibility for a multi-disciplined aviation group with business and facilities in Europe and the Middle East.

He is also a guest speaker on Corporate Jet Investor’s School of Corporate Jet Finance taking place on June 27 and 28, 2017.