With new divisions, Swiss firm extends offerings

 - July 30, 2008, 6:49 AM

Swiss aircraft charter and management group Comlux Aviation is stepping up its efforts to become a full-service business aviation service group with the creation of new aircraft sales and completions divisions. The Zurich-based company has taken a
40-percent share in the Airbus Corporate Jet Centre in Toulouse and is establishing operational bases in Malta and Kazakhstan.

Comlux acquired a stake in Airbus’s completions center through its partnership with Bahrain-based MAZ Aviation. MAZ founder and chairman Mohammed Al Zeer–formerly president of Saudi Arabia’s National Air Services, an operating partner for the NetJets Middle East fractional ownership program–is CEO of Comlux Completions.

Another subsidiary called Comlux Creatives has been formed to help clients with aircraft interior design and the management of completions projects. This is led by Isabelle Bevilacqua, who has hired former Lufthansa Technik designer Alexandra Brökelmann as art director.

Comlux president and CEO Richard Gaona told AIN that offering complimentary services such as completions consultancy is a vital part of the company’s plan to become a comprehensive business aviation group. The intention is to offer independent support to prospective aircraft owners.

“We can help to develop designs that are operationally friendly,” he explained. “Some completions centers have no experience with operations. We have lots of experience.”

Comlux also believes it can generate new business for the Airbus facility. It has already overseen two completions projects–executive versions of the A318 and A320–and it is now working on an Airbus Corporate Jetliner and an A330 widebody.

The Comlux charter and management fleet currently consists of an A318 Elite, an ACJ, three Global Expresses, two Challenger 850s and a 605, a Falcon 2000 and a Hawker 850. The company will add an A318 next month and a Global Express XRS and a Challenger 605 in December.

The company expects to bring in two more ACJs on management contracts, and possibly some more XRSes, next year. By the end of next year the fleet could number nearly 20 aircraft.

Gaona, former v-p of Airbus’s executive and VIP aircraft division, said that Comlux has focused on larger aircraft due to the rising demand for long-range charter flights. As an operator, the company has strong ties with Bombardier, but it is now looking at other manufacturers’ products, such as the new Gulfstream G650.

The decision to establish an operation on the Mediterranean island of Malta has been driven largely by the advantage of having an aircraft operator’s certificate in one of the 27 member states of the European Union. Comlux chose Malta because of its user-friendly legal system, network of well respected banks and location at a junction between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The company plans to base an ACJ there beginning next month.

Similarly, the company views the new Comlux KZ operation in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as a way to tap demand for flights into and within the oil-rich central Asian region. It operates a Challenger 850 there and expects to add a 605, which it will operate with a Kazakh partner by year-end.

Comlux has also established a sales office in Russia and believes the country has enormous growth potential for business aviation. Gaona acknowledged that this growth is being somewhat stunted by the Russian government’s punitive import taxes on foreign-built aircraft. The company is exploring opportunities to operate in the U.S. and China in association with local partners.

In effect, privately owned Comlux’s strategy is to match rivals such as Jet Aviation and TAG Aviation in offering one-stop business aviation services–albeit on a somewhat smaller scale.