PrivatAir took delivery of a BBJ2 late last year and on January 16 started operating a business-class daily round-trip link between Zurich and Newark on behalf of Swiss International Air Lines. The aircraft is equipped with 56 widely spaced lie-flat seats, each fitted with a laptop connection. Although the airline announced the service as a code-share flight, tickets are available only through Swiss’ sales system.
Geneva-based PrivatAir already operates similar services for Lufthansa. Those services currently include Düsseldorf to Chicago and Newark links with two
48-seat Airbus A319s, and a Munich to Newark service with a BBJ. The company launched the Düsseldorf to Newark link in June 2002. Since May 2003, the company has operated an executive shuttle service with two 126-seat A319s for Airbus between the manufacturer’s plants in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Filton, UK.
All aircraft used for scheduled services feature the PrivatAir livery, and under the wet-lease agreement the company also supplies crews, maintenance and insurance.
Aircraft engaged on transatlantic routes typically log more than 4,500 hours per year. This compares with about 1,000 hours per year for a BBJ offered for ad-hoc charter. Heavy maintenance of aircraft in scheduled service is carried out at year-end, when demand for business travel is low.
PrivatAir is active in executive charter, aircraft management, aircraft sales and acquisitions, maintenance of its own fleet and ground handling services in Europe and throughout the U.S. In the handling field, the company has a joint venture with Swiss- Port at its own terminal in Geneva, called PrivatPort. Since it acquired Transair’s ground handling services at Paris Le Bourget in 2000, PrivatAir now handles 35 percent of all traffic at Europe’s busiest dedicated executive airport.
In addition to the Boeing Business Jets and the Airbuses, the company’s 50-strong fleet includes executive aircraft ranging from a Beech King Air to corporate
jets such as the Falcon 900, Gulfstreams and Challengers. It also operates two BBJs and a Boeing 757 based in Geneva. Nearly 40 corporate aircraft of the company’s fleet are based in the U.S., while its activities in Europe are centered mostly on executive airliners.
Asked why major airlines such as Lufthansa or Swiss choose to subcontract business-class-only services to a much smaller company, PrivatAir CEO Greg Thomas contends that the company has acquired an unequalled know-how with the operation of long-range executive airliners since it started operations with Lufthansa in 2002.
According to Thomas, the fact that airlines prefer to work with PrivatAir proves that the arrangement is cost-efficient. In addition, the company’s staff is used to dealing with executive passengers.
According to preliminary figures, the PrivatAir group achieved sales of $135 million last year, up from $110 million the previous year.
Thomas is confident that his company’s expansion will continue this year. “The model offered under our Private Airline Services product line has demonstrated its viability and profitability since the launch of our first route,” he said.
PrivatAir is planning to operate three more aircraft–either Airbus A319s or BBJs–during each of the next three years.