Increased demand at UK charter firm

 - December 18, 2007, 5:54 AM

Charter broker Air Partner has seen a 40-percent increase in executive aircraft bookings over the past year. In an October 6 statement, which reported significantly improved financial results for the year ending July 31, the UK-based group said that business aircraft charters had increased most markedly during May, June and July and that many of these bookings were from financial institutions. Before the widespread softening in world stock markets beginning in 2001, financial “road shows” in which analysts and prospective investors tour company facilities had been a mainstay of the executive charter market.

Pre-tax profits at Air Partner climbed 29.7 percent from 2003 profits, to $6.6 million (£3.71 million). In a bid to protect margins, the group has reduced its worldwide annual overhead by 6.5 percent to $14.8 million (£8.3 million).

Air Partner also attributed rising demand for executive charter flights to ongoing trends in the airline sector. “The fight between full service airlines and low-cost rivals continues to result in falling in-flight service standards,” commented chief executive David Savile. “This often leaves bespoke charter as one of the only sources of time-efficiency and satisfaction in the skies.”

The company also charters airliners for companies and government bodies, and it has been heavily involved in arranging flights into Iraq.

Savile said that Air Partner’s U.S. brokering operation has returned to profitability after it was downsized last year. It now has offices in Washington, D.C., New York City and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has seen significant increases in sales, bolstered partly by bookings associated with the U.S. Presidential election campaign.

Air Partner’s new Middle East division, based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, has turned a profit sooner than expected. Savile declared himself especially satisfied with this achievement “given the cultural differences from our traditional business model.” He said that the group’s experience in VIP operations had proved significant in this market.

In March, Air Partner opened an office in Delhi, which has boosted the company’s brokering capability throughout the Indian subcontinent. Air Partner is in the early stages of establishing a partnership in Singapore to extend its reach throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Air Partner’s offices in France, Germany and Austria have seen a slower recovery, but all turned a profit. The group’s office in Zurich, Switzerland, also met its financial targets.

In September, Air Partner launched its new Jet Membership block charter program and reports an encouraging early response. In January, it received the prestigious Royal Warrant as a supplier of aircraft charter to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.