A319s to shuttle Airbus employees in Europe

 - May 8, 2008, 9:40 AM

Airbus has hired executive charter specialist PrivatAir to operate a corporate shuttle service linking its facilities in the UK, France and Germany. Starting in April, a pair of 126-seat Airbus A319s will provide the daily midweek service between the Airbus factories at Broughton and Filton in the UK with those at Toulouse in southwestern France and Hamburg in northern Germany.

Geneva-based PrivatAir has been told by Airbus to expect average loads of 70 passengers on each flight and will be providing a fully catered service equivalent to European business class. The A319s will be painted in PrivatAir colors and are being leased from CIT Aerospace.

One of the A319s will depart from Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport each weekday morning to arrive at Toulouse at 9:20 a.m. This will allow Airbus’ German employees to attend routinely scheduled 10 a.m. meetings at the European airframer’s headquarters, which is about a mile from the French airport. The return flight to Hamburg will depart Toulouse at around 5:45 p.m.

The other A319 will provide a similar daily connection between Bristol’s Filton Airport and Toulouse. On Monday mornings this service will begin at Airbus’ Broughton plant (near Chester in northwest England) and will return to this site on Friday evening. Airbus builds wings at both UK locations.

PrivatAir will operate the corporate shuttle for Airbus through a new German subsidiary. According to COO Greg Thomas, the Swiss firm has had to establish an operation within the European Union (EU) because it will be providing commercial air service among three EU states. Switzerland remains outside the EU.

Airbus employees can make reservations for the shuttle flights through a private partition in one of the leading airline industry computer reservation systems (using travel agents if they wish). Tickets are billed back to their business units. Seats can also be purchased, subject to availability, by Airbus suppliers and employee family members.

PrivatAir is operating the flights under a turnkey contract. It is being paid an undisclosed sum for an assumed number of flights and passengers. This fee can be revised if these assumptions change over the course of the contract.

Airbus is currently using UK regional airline Flybe to fly UK employees to Toulouse in a BAE Systems 146 quad-jet. Another 146, operated by German operator WDL Aviation, carries German staff out of Hamburg.

German Operation

Thomas told AIN that PrivatAir may base its new German operation at Dusseldorf, where it already operates scheduled flights for Lufthansa using a 48-seat Boeing Business Jet (one of three BBJs that it operates). The BBJ flies six weekly round trips to the New York City-area Newark Liberty International Airport on behalf of the German flag carrier.

PrivatAir is considering having the Dusseldorf-based flight and cabin crew dual-rated for both the BBJ and A319 to ensure operational flexibility between the two services. The Airbus flights will be provided under a commercial aircraft operators certificate because tickets are being offered to people other than Airbus employees.

eparately, PrivatAir is looking to challenge rivals Jet Aviation and TAG Aviation in the market for European executive aircraft management. PrivatAir is a major player in the U.S. marketplace, but has decided that European operations will need to be run separately due to the numerous legal, financial and social differences. It intends to appoint a director for European aircraft management in the near future and is also seeking to acquire a London-based aircraft management firm.