Global charter broker Air Partner International has acquired UK executive charter operator Gold Air for around $8.1 million. From its base at London Biggin Hill Airport, Gold Air now operates six new Bombardier Learjet 45s and a British Aerospace HS 125-800 under management contracts for their owners.
According to Air Partner chief executive David Savile, Gold Air has largely been bought to give the broker an assured supply of charter capacity for its clients, including customers for its new Jet Card block charter program. But he insisted that Air Partner will still be making charter bookings with numerous other operators around the world and will not seek to show any commercial preference for Gold Air.
Gold Air also has two Bombardier Global 5000s on order which are due for delivery in 2009. Savile said that he could not yet say precisely under what terms these aircraft will be owned, but did confirm that Gold Air is not buying them directly. He added that Air Partner, which has 20 offices in Europe, the U.S., the Middle East and Asia, also wants to be able to help existing charter customers who want to own aircraft and have them managed by a respected operator. Gold Air is a factory-authorized service center for Learjets.
Gold Air’s existing management is being retained and it will continue to operate under its own name. Under managing director Will Curtis and operations director Richard Davies, the company achieved sales of $20 million in the financial year that ended on June 30.
After final completion of the transaction, Gold Air will enter a new management contract with its former owner, the Gold Group, to operate three of the Learjet 45s and the HS 125 for between two and four years. It is these aircraft that will be under Air Partner’s control in the charter market, while three other Learjet 45s are managed for third-party owners.
Savile said that the need to ensure charter lift for its new JetCard block charter program is a factor in the Gold Air acquisition, but not a driving factor. Air Partner will now be conducting talks with Bombardier to agree whether or not it is appropriate for Gold Air to continue as one of the approved operators for the Canadian airframer’s own Skyjet International block charter offering. In Savile’s view, Bombardier will allow the arrangement to continue because its main motivation behind Skyjet is to attract new clients to its business aircraft, and so, in this context, it may not care whether Gold Air is flying for Skyjet or JetCard.
Savile would not rule out the prospect of Air Partner buying other charter operators, but said that no immediate plans to do so are in place. “The logic for doing it is there,” he concluded.