Why do airports need to invest in business aviation?


Investing in general as well as business aviation facilities will yield higher, more lucrative traffic, and could help turn an airport in to a business aviation destination, reports Kathryn B Creedy.

Investing in general and business aviation facilities will yield higher, more lucrative traffic, said Adam Twidell, CEO at PrivateFly, to assembled airport and government representatives during the recent Caribbean aviation meetup in St. Maarten. Such investment will also help make an airport a business jet destination, he claimed.

“We’ve found high net worth individuals return again and again to the same destination,” said Twidell. “We’ve also found that they are strong advocates and actually attract other private jet users to that destination because they like to go where there are other private jet users. So, not only are you attracting high net worth individuals, but they in turn attract other high net worth individuals.”

While commercial aviation may provide the most lift to Caribbean markets, it does not make the same economic contribution.

“I want to make a case for investing in private aviation,” Twidell said. “Private aviation brings in more than US$1bn per year in additional spending to a destination, with a single jet providing an additional US$69,000 in spending. This is why you want to become known as a private jet destination – these are global travelers with deep pockets, but you have to know what is needed to cater to the private jet user.”

Twidell pointed to the experience of the island of Ibiza, which concluded it couldn’t solely rely on low-cost passengers. A decade ago, it launched a program to attract high net worth individuals and decided to invest in excellent FBO facilities. Today, it has enough business to occupy three FBOs including Ibizair, ExecuJet and SkyValet, and moved into the top 25 destinations in Europe, attracting higher spending travelers who are building bigger villas and starting businesses.

He explained that such passengers want privacy and to have that, they want to control their environment – it is not enough to just have a runway. Destinations need to invest in fixed-base operations with 24/7 service and customs and immigration.”

Twidell also covered the trends in private aviation: “The average age of users is relatively young at 41 and unfortunately still largely male, but 10% are traveling with children and combining business and leisure activities with their company paying for part of the trip and the traveler paying for the rest.

“The average load has also increased to four passengers. Private jet fliers breed success or perhaps success breeds more private jets usage. Either way 95% of Fortune’s most admired companies are business aviation users and 86% of those companies are among the best places to work.”

He also noted 80% of private flying is on propeller aircraft, popular alongside small and medium jets, with the number flying on global jets relatively small. However, the size of the aircraft in use is now growing along with the length of missions.

“We are also seeing a trend toward multi-generational trips, where grandparents are taking their grandchildren on holiday but need to avoid the commercial airport experience,” said Twidell. “Private aviation users are cash rich but time poor, which means they prize flexibility. We are seeing a rise in the number of travelers wanting to go to remote destinations and have unique experiences that could be threatened with change as they become more popular. Cuba is a good example of that.

“Travelers want to save time and avoid the hassle and be closer to their destination, using airports which minimize ground transfer. They want to book and fly more quickly. One third of bookings fly within two days of booking, with the balance flying within the week – the amount they are paying has risen 26% this year.”

Twidell also noted that private aviation works well with airport operations since it tends to provide additional income, and arrive and depart, during commercial aviation troughs.

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