European business aviation flight activity may still be down, but overall prospects for one of the industry’s largest service groups are on the rise, according to Jet Aviation president Dan Clare. In an interview ahead of this week’s EBACE show Clare said the Switzerland-based company’s management and charter business is picking up well, with balanced growth between the markets in the U.S. and across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. At the same time, he hailed a recovery in Jet Aviation’s aircraft completions business.
According to Clare, who is approaching his second anniversary at the helm of Jet Aviation, the growth in its management fleet has seen an even spread in new arrivals from among manufacturers such as Dassault, Bombardier and its General Dynamics sister company Gulfstream. It now claims one of the largest fleets under management in the world, having added 23 aircraft so far in 2013, with three of these being available for charter, including a Falcon 900EX and Bombardier Global 5000 and Challenger 604. The company added eight jets in the U.S., seven in Europe, four in Asia and two each in Africa and the Middle East.
“Charter is still a tough business but it’s not hurting us since we got rid of our own fleet,” Clare told AIN. He described the management sector as “fractured” in the sense that some operators have come under significant commercial pressure, with owners more willing to move their aircraft. “But we haven’t seen a lot of people coming and going,” he added. “It is very rare that someone leaves us unless they sell their airplane.”
Meanwhile, Clare and his team believe they have now turned around what he acknowledged had been a troubled completions operation in Basel, Switzerland. “We have re-engineered the Basel facility from top to bottom and the quality of the work and the rate of deliveries, and we now see this [sector] as an opportunity for revenue growth,” he explained, adding that in 2012 the center delivered six aircraft.
In the area of FBOs and maintenance, repair and overhaul services, Clare reported stabilization of demand in the European market and new growth in demand in other markets. Maintenance activity at its Dubai and Singapore bases has been increasing and in Singapore it is in the process of tripling the size of its facility.
“I think we’ve achieved a lot in the past 18 months or so, moving our headquarters from Zurich to Basel to get closer to operations and closer to customers,” said Clare. “We’ve grown new businesses like Jet Professionals [the company’s business aviation recruitment agency] and have gotten out of some locations that were no longer core.”
As it introduces new services, such as increased support for the Embraer aircraft family, Jet Aviation (Booth 519) has stepped up investment in training and infrastructure. It expects to be announcing further expansion at new locations in the near future.
“It’s still a very competitive market but customers still recognize value, and I still see a lot of loyalty from them because of our continued value proposition,” concluded Clare. “I’m always really pleased when I talk to customers and hear how loyal they are to us.”