The Czech Republic and its capital, Prague, are emerging as a key beachhead in the expansion of business aviation into the 10 new states of the European Union (EU). These countries include the neighboring Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta, and on May 1 they joined the EU, increasing its membership to 25 states. All are now viewed as prime territory for economic development and opportunity, which could drive strong demand for business aviation.
ABC Looks to Eastern Europe
Paul Davey, an Englishman who has lived and worked in nearby Vienna for many years, spotted this potential in 2003 when his Aviation Business Consulting (ABC) company started to act as a conduit for business aviation growth in the countries of Eastern Europe. He spent most of last year helping to establish the new Aviation Service Handling FBO at Prague Ruzyne International Airport.
Setting up the FBO at Ruzyne was merely an extension of Davey’s prior work on behalf of business aviation in Eastern Europe. During the 1990s, Davey helped to found and then manage three FBOs in the Austrian capital: ViennAir-Polsterer Jets, Vienna Aircraft Service and Vienna Aircraft Handling. At the time, he served as chairman of the airports and handling committee of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) and co-authored the group’s FBO “code of practice” for executive aircraft handling. For more than a decade, he has been involved as a consultant helping to establish FBOs in the former Soviet Union and Hungary at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo Airports, as well as at Budapest Ferihegy International Airport.
“There is a real need for business aviation in the East because it is still not easy to make journeys with the airlines,” Davey told AIN. In his experience, a lot of the business aviation activity in Eastern Europe involves chartered and managed aircraft going to and from other EU member states or in and out of Russia.
In addition to helping to develop new business aviation service companies in Eastern Europe, ABC is now a charter broker. The company uses the Charter X software and database to operate an online “Instant Jet Search” on its Web site (www.privatjet.at).
“Charter operators are now moving aircraft into the East, staging them there to meet demand for flights,” Davey said. In his view, Hungary, Poland and Latvia are the other most promising countries for business aviation market growth.
Grossmann also Sets an Eastern Course
Another business aviation entrepreneur looking east to the new EU states is Dagmar Grossmann. She is positioning into the Czech Republic a Dornier 328Jet and a Bombardier Challenger 600 operated by Vienna-based Grossmann Air Service. Through her Prague-based venture, Grossmann Jet Service, she intends to add a Gulfstream IV to this fleet before year-end. Grossmann Air Service also operates another two corporate jets under management contracts. The 328Jet can carry up to 32 passengers as a corporate shuttle or it can be reconfigured as a 16-seat executive jet.
Grossmann, a former flight attendant who founded Grossmann Air Service in 1991, told AIN that the Czech Republic is the economic hothouse of the EU’s new eastern member states. She said that the neighboring Slovakia, Hungary and Poland still lag behind in terms of commercial development and that the once-promising Russian market is now relatively flat by comparison. “Prague will be the new capital of Europe,” she predicted.