EBACE Convention News

Aviaxess launches block charter helicopter card

 - November 29, 2006, 10:33 AM

Paris-based fixed-wing and helicopter executive charter and fractional operator Aviaxess is launching its Corporate Helicard, a block charter card providing buyers with discounts and guaranteed helicopter availability. The company fields some 35 rotorcraft in the program, including Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B2s, AS 355Ns, Dauphin AS 365Ns, EC 135s; and Agusta A109 Powers.

The Helicard is available in 25- or 50-hour blocks and the company is planning to offer smaller packages. The program guarantees helicopter availability with 72 hours’ notice and offers discounts of 10 to 50 percent on both flight hour and day rates, said Frederic Aguettant, the French company’s CEO. Day rates usually apply for low usage, such as when a customer books the helicopter for an entire day but uses only one flight hour.

Customers can book a helicopter at any of the company’s six locations using a single telephone number. They can specify a type of helicopter and rates vary accordingly. As an example, Aguettant said, 25 hours on an AS 350 costs ?26,250 ($31,500 before value added tax).

“The customer is alerted if his selected type is not operated at a particular location, and he may choose another. Conversion rates apply to an upgrade or downgrade by type, Aguettant said. The company has partner helicopter operators in London, Brussels, Geneva and Madrid, in addition to its own bases in France at Paris and Toulon, on the French Riviera.

Aguettant said Aviaxess plans to offer the Helicard program in 15 major European cities eventually. The company is close to signing on another partner in Poland, he revealed.

Partners are audited before they can join the program. They have to produce their JAR-OPS 3 air operator certificate, insurance validity and pilot licenses. “We also evaluate the way they treat customers,” Aguettant added.

Aguettant said a block charter program is a way to stimulate helicopter growth in Europe, where previous attempts at fractional ownership concepts for rotorcraft have failed. “Our Helicard should help us find new customers among travelers who have used helicopters only occasionally,” he added.

Aviaxess’ regular customers also should find benefits in switching to a simplified, more predictable program. Aguettant insisted helicopter charter is barely developed in mainland Europe, particularly in France. There, the main rotorcraft applications are aerial work and emergency medical service.

The four-year-old Aviaxess also provides management services for nine helicopters, four of which it operates in public passenger transport–three AS 350s and one EC 130. It also offers FBO and handling services and is an operating partner in Bombardier’s Skyjet International block charter program.

Thus far, Aviaxess has sold only one card. The company’s  objective has been set at 15 to 20 customers over the first year, Aguettant said.