It’s been a tough year for the European business aviation community. Like its U.S. counterpart, the industry took a hit as a result of the economic downturn, leading to a loss of business in all sectors. In addition, new rules and regulations have many in the industry on edge. In an interview with NBAA Convention News, Brian Humphries, president and CEO of the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), discussed the issues affecting the industry and EBAA’s role.
What are the biggest issues facing European operators?
Clearly everyone is suffering due to the economic downturn. We’re not quite
as bad as in the U.S., but looking at the figures from Eurocontrol [the European organization for the safety of air navigation], the overall downturn looks as though it’s going to be about 15 percent this year, which takes us back down to 2005 levels. So, undoubtedly, the biggest challenge we have is the reduction in activity and the reduction in value for charter flights. And this is a challenge that operators are facing globally.
The number-two challenge here is that we have a lot of inappropriate regulations. We have the EU ETS [emissions trading scheme], which has not at all been well managed and not well regulated. It’s been giving our people a lot of problems.
We’re doing the best we can to help, but the most ridiculous ruling is that if you’re a corporate operator, even if you make just one flight from the U.S. to Europe, you have to do emissions trading. If you’re a commercial operator, you can emit up to 10,000 tons or 243 flights in four months and be exempt.
So I would say those are the two biggest issues, but we’ve also made some good progress in getting the opportunity to write sensible rules for security for business aviation. Looking ahead, our concern will be the new EASA rulemaking and consultation process that’s going to introduce new rules starting in 2012.
What has EBAA done to address these issues?
EBAA has been active in all of these issues. In terms of the downturn, we’re giving people whatever help and tips we can offer. We’re acting as a conduit for information.
We’re also doing our utmost to fight inappropriate regulations where we can.
In terms of ETS, we’ve been in there right from the start. We’ve lobbied hard, and
we continue to lobby hard, to get the threshold raised as high as it can be to simplify operations. We don’t sell seats. We sell the whole airplane.
The other front we’re active in is the Single European Sky. We just signed an agreement to be a major contractor in the development of the Single European Sky technology. So we’re active and busy on all fronts.
In the past year, business aviation has suffered due to a negative perception by the general public. What is EBAA doing to address the problem of perception?
There is more of a perception problem in the U.S. We’ve always kept a low profile; you’ll never see a company logo on an aircraft. So we have a lower visibility. We don’t quite have the problems you’ve been having in the States. Having said that, we constantly have to demonstrate value and make it clear that we add value.
In what ways are EBAA and NBAA working together?
NBAA and EBAA have always worked closely together. For example, we’ve been working together to get access for European operators to the U.S. We
had a team over there in September meeting with U.S. officials to talk about access for business jets. We’ve worked extremely closely on that. We’ve also worked closely in emissions trading.
Also, we work closely with NBAA to organize the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition [EBACE]. It’s a 50/50 joint venture.
So I would say we work as well with NBAA as we do any other organization. We’re pleased with the relationship we have with NBAA.
Do you think attendance at NBAA will be affected by the economic downturn?
We always go, and we always take the opportunity to have a joint meeting with NBAA and the International Business Aviation Council members.
So we’re really looking forward to the show, but we have no idea what the numbers will be like.
I just got back from Helitech, the European helicopter show. Obviously
the helicopter industry is suffering as badly as anybody, but the numbers there were good, so you never know. It might be that in a recession, in a downturn, people feel they need to get out to help business.
What do prospects look like for the next EBACE?
I really don’t know. We were delighted and surprised that the last EBACE turned out to be the third biggest show that we’ve had in its history, especially sinceit occurred during the deepest depths of a recession. So we were pleased with that outcome.