During a media briefing at this year’s BBGA annual conference, business aviation operators Alex Durand, CEO, SaxonAir and Deputy Chair of BBGA; George Galanopoulos, Chair and CEO, Luxaviation UK; Gus Paterson, COO, Centreline and Sandy Boyer, Sales Manager, Executive Aviation, spoke about the charter industry and reflected on the successes of their respective charter companies.

The briefing began on a positive note, with each operator reporting positive results for the previous year. Galanopoulos reported that Luxavation performed well in 2022, welcoming six aircraft to its global fleet last summer with five available for charter from a Bombardier Global 5000 to a Beechcraft King Air 200, leading to a positive outlook for 2023. Galanopoulos added that for Luxavation the effects of Brexit “have got better”.

Durand highlighted similar success having seen the “language of good” across all parts of SaxonAir’s business in 2022, continuing that the private charter airline is “debating whether we reinvest or just stay as we are.” Durand also reported that for the Business Aviation Centre and hangar facility at Norwich Airport, revenue is up: “Our hangar space is full of tenants and our operations, especially helicopter charter, is doing well.”

Centreline doubled the size of its group in 2022, according to Paterson, as Parent Pula Aviation Services acquired Wycombe-based AirParts and the remnants of Capital Air Ambulance, expanding Centreline’s aeromedical capabilities. The private jet charter company also won an MoD bid to source and procure two Falcon 900LX aircraft, which it brought into service on 1 June 2022. Paterson said: “This was a herculean effort by our team and Dassault, who were very pleased [to be the chosen OEM].”

For Hunt & Palmer, the first few months of 2023 have been strong, particularly with large cabin charter to the US from Europe, according to Boyer, who added this is especially the case as corporates, bands and road shows are returning, having facilitated 30 music tours in the last six months of 2022.


Ongoing challenges

All the operators agreed that for the private charter industry, industry-wide workforce and skills shortages will be an ongoing challenge, as well as addressing the negative perception of business aviation. “We haven’t done enough to promote the attractiveness of our industry,” said Galanopoulos, “but we pay well and there are a lot of opportunities.”

Centreline is addressing the skills shortages by promoting within, said Paterson, who explained that its Beechcraft King Air pilots are moving on to the Falcon.

“We are taking the time to talk to schools about the evolution of aviation, including its electrification,” added SaxonAir’s Durand, highlighting the importance of engaging with schools for the future of business aviation, to which the panel agreed.

Even with the above initiatives, Luxaviation’s Galanopoulos believed that there is more to be done, inspired by GearUp Media’s young people video storytelling campaign led by Liz Moscrop, CEO, GearUp Media, in an earlier session.

“The perception is, alas, the same as it was 30 years ago,” said Galanopoulos.

“We need to be better in putting our case forward – and do so on the social media platforms that Generation Z and Millennials use. We have to be more proactive and keep up with the times,” he concluded.

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