Club Airways International rebuilds executive client base

 - September 22, 2006, 5:41 AM

Despite a widely acclaimed business idea–scheduled per-seat service with executive jets for its members–Geneva-based Club Airways filed for bankruptcy protection early last year and ceased operations. However, a new group of investors, headed by Eric Kohn from the UK, acquired the name, license and membership lists of Club Airways in the middle of last year. This new entity, which operates out of Geneva under the name Club Airways International, has no financial ties to the defunct company.

“Bailing out Club Airways proved impractical, so we took over the assets only,” noted Kohn, chairman of the new company. He believes that overexpansion led to problems for the previous company and emphasized that the new enterprise will expand progressively based on a solid membership pool.

Club Airways International started offering scheduled flights between Geneva and Paris in September and within six months had gained 180 members, including several large corporations. About 30 members are based in Paris. The service currently makes three daily flights between Paris and Geneva and offers on-demand charter flights to other destinations.

Club Airways wet-leases aircraft from Geneva-based international operators of business aircraft, such as Jet Aviation and TAG Aviation, and from local operators such as Sonnig, Swiss Eagle and Elixair. The company most frequently uses the
Citation Bravo, which carries up to eight passengers, for the Geneva-Paris link. PrivatPort, a joint venture of SwissPort and PrivatAir, provides handling, check-in
and passenger lounges. Euralair provides these facilities at Paris Le Bourget.

The tariff structure of Club Airways International currently includes an annual membership fee of SwFr2,000 (about $1,500) for individuals, plus SwFr1,390
to 1,590 per round trip between Geneva and Paris, which is 10 to 15 percent more than the cost of a business-class airline ticket. Other tariffs are available for companies and parents of individual members.

Club Airways International touts time savings as its main benefit, with a check-in lead-time of 15 minutes, valet parking for members’ cars, limousine downtown service at destination at a flat fee, as well as hotel reservations and car rental.

Expanding Operations
According to operations manager Dominic Sandell, load factors are good from Tuesday through Thursday, while the company’s flights attract fewer business travelers on Friday, Sunday and Monday. No flights are offered on Saturdays. To improve load factors at the beginning and end of the week, the company is developing top-end leisure travel to Paris, including hotel arrangements and event entrance tickets.

Expansion of scheduled flights to other major centers is in the works, but any announcement would be premature at this time, according to Club Airways management. The next destination will most probably be London, which the former Club Airways served before its demise.

In December Danish-born Inge Leutscher joined the initial investors of Club Airways International as COO. As an experienced aviation executive, event organizer and publisher of a lifestyle magazine, she will help Club Airways International establish itself in fields other than executive travel, especially in connection with holiday resorts in Switzerland and France.