Flexibility Vital As Charter Market Recovers, Says LEA
EBACE, Geneva, May 17, 2011 – A gradual recovery in the European charter market is taking hold. But, for the moment, intelligent European operators must also look further afield for growth opportunities, including Africa.
Those are the views of George Galanopoulos, managing director of London Executive Aviation (LEA), one of Europe’s largest business jet charter operators.
Galanopoulos says: “In the past six months, LEA has seen a 5% increase in the total number of hours flown by our fleet and a 7% rise in enquiries compared to the same period last year. Some of that growth is coming from the return of traditionally solid customers, such as the banking sector. However, European charter demand is still tentative in many respects, so operators have to be smart and flexible in finding additional sources of revenue.
“Right now, we are seeing some of our clearest business opportunities in north Africa. Both for economic and political reasons, there is growing demand in the region, which is well within the range of our mid-size and large cabin aircraft, such as the Citation Excel and Embraer Legacy 600. While we have operated aircraft to north Africa for many years, our current level of activity there marks a significant expansion of LEA’s operating footprint. A typical flight might be from London to Freetown, then on to Monrovia and back to London, over a four-day period.”
Galanopoulos says, overall, large cabin aircraft continue to be in greater demand from charter customers than light jets. “One of the recessionary trends that initially took us by surprise was how our large jets kept flying, while our mid-size and light jets were, comparatively, less in demand. The fact usage patterns have yet to change significantly shows high-net-worth individuals and governmental customers remain critical to the charter market in 2011, while other customers have yet to return in large numbers.”
In the past six months, the busiest aircraft in LEA’s 25-strong business jet charter fleet have been the Embraer Legacy 650 and the company’s five Legacy 600s. “These aircraft combine cabin luxury that customers appreciate with operating economics and field service that make operators smile. We have put the range of the 650 to good use on many occasions, from London, taking in nonstop destinations such as Dubai, Astana and New York.”
“The Legacys have also been instrumental, if you’ll pardon the pun, in LEA breaking properly into the rock band market. As artists now rely heavily on touring for their profits, tour managers are very sensitive to the cost/benefit analysis of their aircraft choice. The Legacys are widely seen in this market to offer exceptional value for their size.”
Looking ahead, Galanopoulos expects European charter demand to maintain gradual growth in 2011 and to gather significantly more pace in 2012. “This year, we will see the continued erosion of some of the uncertainties that have held back charter demand. The US economic recovery is looking more certain and the UK economy looks to be at least stable. And next year, of course, we will have the London Olympics, which will directly feed demand and may hopefully also contribute a growing sense of economic confidence. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but perhaps we can see the edge of the forest creeping into view.”
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