After almost 50 years of quiet growth, Belgium-based charter operator Abelag is ready to speak up. “Abelag is a discreet company,” CEO Herve Laitat said at EBACE. “Maybe it’s the philosophy of the company to be low profile, like our clients.” Even Abelag’s compact stand (Booth 1157) is low-key, belying the scale of its operations. The privately owned company operates a fleet of 25 aircraft ranging from a Beechcraft King Air 200 to a pair of Falcon 7Xs, based at five airports. Abelag also operates an FBO and a Part 145 repair station at its home base at Brussels International Airport.
The FBO recently underwent total refurbishment and its hangar space was doubled with the opening of a new 4,000-sq-m (43,000-sq-ft) hangar that can house aircraft up to a Gulfstream G650. Abelag provides line and base maintenance on most of the aircraft types it operates, and also has a shared ownership program with a Citation CJ2 in which the company itself is a share owner, not simply manager. Additionally, Abelag serves as an aircraft broker when owners of its managed aircraft look to upgrade or downgrade.
With its 50th anniversary coming in 2014, Laitat it looking ahead to Abelag’s next half century and sees opportunities for growth in consolidation, possibly via merger or acquisition. Laitat is interested in operators within a one-hour flight radius from Benelux that use the aircraft types Abelag operates, but has not begun searching for prospects, he said. As for how the company is faring in the current slack European charter market, Laitat said, “Honestly, we can be very proud that we’re almost back to the figures from before the [financial] crisis in terms of hours, but it’s not like 2005.”