Lufthansa Technik launches full-service Platinet program

 - October 3, 2007, 11:35 AM

The Lufthansa Technik-led Platinet support program for business aircraft operators is up and running. The German aircraft maintenance and completions firm has assembled an initial group of partners for the service and is now looking to expand the geographical scope of the support network. It has ambitions of eventually creating a network of branded FBOs and fuel suppliers, almost certainly extending into Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

The Platinet program is designed to guarantee business aircraft owners a comprehensive service to ensure that they stay mobile in the event their aircraft is grounded for whatever reason. The idea is that program members need only make a single telephone call to get all their problems solved on very short notice.

Lufthansa Technik (LHT) announced the program at last May’s European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE); launch partners were the Air Routing flight planning group, material logistics specialist Trade Air, express forwarder Cross Freight, ground handling and executive charter specialist Service People and the Harrods Aviation FBO/maintenance group. According to LHT vice president of VIP/government Rüdiger Hornig, the company hopes to announce a major U.S. partner soon, to strengthen its responsiveness and capability in North America.

LHT has signed an undisclosed number of customers for Platinet and they are now able to use the 800-Platinet telephone access number at any time in 46 countries. The company would not disclose the membership charges, but said that they vary according to the size and scope of a customer’s operation. Customers also pay a per-incident charge that varies according to how quickly they need to guarantee mobility in an aircraft-on-the-ground situation.

Platinet members also pay for the services required to provide the necessary mobility, such as dispatching spares and maintenance personnel, chartering replacement aircraft and booking seats on scheduled commercial flights. According to LHT, the program’s economies of scale and buying power mean that customers will save money on these services, but the main benefit of the program is that one telephone call effectively solves the member’s predicament.

Platinet project managers use the service’s database, which details all aspects of its members’ aircraft and travel requirements, to decide what level of response is required in any situation.

Initially, LHT is aiming Platinet at operators of large business aircraft, a segment spanning the BBJ to the Gulfstream IV. According to LHT, the service is less compelling for operators of smaller aircraft, such as the Cessna Citation family, because they operate over shorter ranges and–in North America and Europe at least–are rarely too far from a factory-authorized service center. Hornig pointed out that while manufacturers already offer after-sales support packages, these are generally restricted to technical services and offer little in the way of alternative arrangements for flights.

LHT Plans International Expansion
For LHT, Platinet represents a clear strategic move beyond its expertise in maintenance, repair and overhaul services and high-specification aircraft completions. “We want to be a full-service and solution provider,” explained Hornig. He said that even though Platinet is now operational, it remains a work in progress and will be adapted according to feedback from the initial group of members. Platinet customers also benefit from the Lufthansa Miles & More loyalty program, which is connected to the Star Alliance group of airlines.

Meanwhile, LHT is extending its talks with Harrods Aviation with a view toward broadening its cooperation to cover more service-center capability and, possibly, handling operations. Harrods currently has FBOs and maintenance facilities at London Luton and Stansted airports and also provides handling for business aircraft at Heathrow.

LHT’s ambitions of getting into the international FBO business are largely focused on the emerging economies of Eastern Europe, as well as those in the Middle East and Asia, where business aviation support infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped. Hornig stressed that LHT will achieve any move into these markets through partnership rather than through unilateral developments. The company has not yet determined whether these FBOs would carry the Platinet or Lufthansa Technik brand.