Executive Airlines soars on charter growth curve

 - May 18, 2008, 12:11 AM

Executive Airlines (Booth No. 1529) has made a spectacular takeoff and confirmed its position as Spain’s second-ranking business aircraft operator. The Barcelona-based group plans to almost double its fleet from 19 aircraft to 29 within two years, highlighting the huge growth of the Spanish market. Since it started operations with just two aircraft in 2000, the company, owned by a leisure industry executive Manuel Lao and run by former professional soccer player Juli López Segú, has seen rapid growth.

López, 38, hung up his football boots seven years ago and, armed with an MBA, went to work for Lao at leading Spanish group Cirsa. Now as CEO of Executive Airlines, he explained that the next phase of its development will see international expansion from its operational Spanish bases of Madrid, Barcelona, Gerona and Valencia to encompass new facilities in the main European capitals. Commercial offices are planned in Russia, Dubai and Switzerland (probably here in Geneva) to be followed by bases in India, China and other Far Eastern countries after commercial agreements with local operators.

In addition to aircraft management and chartering, the company’s activities include aircraft sales, ground handling and flight planning. Its main competitors are Gestair, NetJets Europe and TAG Aviation.

Executive Airlines was launched eight years ago with a Dassault Falcon 900EX and a Cessna Citation Bravo belonging to Lao, who later added a Bombardier Learjet 45 and a Citation CJ1. The latest additions to the fleet–which is otherwise made up of jets managed for their owners–are a Beechcraft Hawker 400XP and four Gulfstream G200s, which were received this spring and bring to seven the number of this model in the operator’s fleet. The other seven aircraft available for charter include three G550s, one GIV-SP, a G150, a Citation XLS and a second CJ1.

The company focuses on medium- and long-range routes, especially to the U.S., Latin America, Asia and the Arabian Gulf. Intercontinental flights are priced at between $9,000 and $12,000 per hour.

In 2006 Executive Airlines became the first operator to be selected for Jet Aviation’s Skyalliance charter network. It claims to be the only Spanish operator authorized to fly in and out of London City Airport, which it does with its Falcon and Bravo. It is now modifying the Learjet 45 for the downtown airport’s 5.5-degree approach.
Another three G200s, two G450s and three G550s are earmarked to join the Executive Airlines fleet by the end of 2009. Aircraft added to the fleet are usually new, with less than 15 percent of the current fleet pre-owned.

“Despite some jets joining the fleet only at the end of last year, we recorded 6,310 flight hours with 13 aircraft in 2007, up from 4,650 flight hours with eight jets in 2006. We predict we will more  than double the number of hours flown to 13,975 this year,” López told EBACE Convention News. He confirmed that negotiations for yet further additions to the fleet are under way.