Simon Moore, senior vice president of group charter, Air Partner USA, discusses overseeing the upcoming political campaigning season.
How do you prepare for a busy campaign season?
The first step is to introduce ourselves to campaign staffers around the country. Over the years we have developed an extensive network of political operatives on both sides of the aisle. In the 2016 election, we initially met with campaign staff 20 months prior to the election. Part of the process is ensuring that the campaign travel staff can use their Air Partner contact to provide a one-stop shop throughout the process.
The same is true with the operators we rely on as campaign partners, flight crews, and dispatchers, who we ensure understand the unique campaign travel needs.
What are the logistics of planning for an event so large and with multiple legs?
The key is communication. We are the liaison between the campaign and the operator.
For a multi-stop campaign there are several things to consider. Our team will ask the exact location of each event, not just the city, so we can identify the closest possible airfield, cutting as many minutes as possible from the schedule; we ensure the aircraft size fits numerous criteria, and ensuring runway length complies with size.
We also need to liaise with FBOs to ensure that candidates can enter gates to the aircraft side smoothly. When required we will have an on-board flight rep who will deal with on-the-go troubleshooting and work to ensure that transits through the airport / FBO to aircraft and vice versa happen with as little impact to the candidate as possible. Lost time at an FBO or airport can impact schedules on days when multiple events and several cities are planned.
How do you plan the transit process from ground to air?
It all starts with communications between Air Partner and the campaign operations staff. And it’s not just a simple list they provide, or a one-sided conversation.
We spend extra time asking detailed questions to ensure all bases are covered. Most campaign staffers are so busy with the work of the actual event and schedule, that the aviation component only means getting picked up and dropped off at the right place and time.
Having worked on political travel both domestically and globally, Air Partner understands the areas that can be problematic. Working with the campaign staff in advance mitigates pinch points that can create problems.
Campaigns are always fluid and react to changing situations, which can mean last-minute changes to destinations. We may start a week with a plan for five days ahead, but this can change up to the night before or very early morning on the day of operation.
Has Covid-19 impacted the planning?
During the 2020 election cycle, we worked with each campaign’s specific requirements as to health and safety procedures while interacting with candidates and staff, in addition to aircraft cleaning procedures.
Such logistics included having crews tested on the day of the flight and when we needed a second crew on heavy schedule days, this additional crew was flown in on a private aircraft – not via commercial flights – to further reduce any exposures.
We also arranged for crews to be kept isolated in a hotel for up to three weeks. These were exceptional circumstances in the 2020 campaign and prior to the introduction of vaccinations.
We expect additional procedures on our campaign charters going forward and we remain on watch for changing requirements.