PrivatAir flies high with large jets

EBACE Convention News » 2007
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May 10, 2007, 6:49 AM

In the 30 years since its founding, PrivatAir (Booth No. 740) has fine-tuned its skills in operating airliners for executive use. While the Swiss company is involved in the FBO business–setting them up or acquiring some–and is active in executive jet management, charter and brokering, its core business is operating a fleet of large jets, including three Boeing Business Jets, one BBJ2, one Boeing 757 and four Airbus Corporate Jetliners. It recently took delivery of a Boeing 767 and has a Boeing 787 on order for delivery in 2012.

Through its Flight Services Group (FSG) division, acquired in 2000, PrivatAir has an extensive operation in the U.S., including a managed fleet of some 40 aircraft, ranging in size from a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 200 to a Bombardier Global 5000. PrivatAir’s U.S. arm operates two FBOs–at Norwich, New York, and Stratford, Connecticut–another facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, as well as 11 operating centers.

In Europe, the company maintains operating offices in Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Munich, as well as in Zurich, and in Bristol, UK. Its headquarters is right here in Geneva, situated in the airport’s C3 executive terminal, which was built as a joint venture between PrivatAir and the airport authority.

The terminal was completed in 2002 and sections of it are leased to PrivatAir’s rivals Jet Aviation, TAG Aviation and Club Airways. PrivatPort, a joint venture between PrivatAir and Swissport Executive Aviation, offers a complete range of VIP passenger and handling services.

The PrivatAir group, with its staff of 550, reported sales of more than $190 million last year and has practically doubled its revenues within the last five years. Sales at the company’s U.S. arm accounted for about $45 million last year.

PrivatAir’s focus on large executive aircraft stems from its origin as the flight department of the Latsis Group, which is active in worldwide mining, shipping, construction, real estate and finance interests and requires long-range aircraft.

The company also has pioneered the use of specially configured executive airliners for business-class-only scheduled flights. In June 2002 it started operating the first such flights between Düsseldorf and Newark on behalf of Lufthansa. For this operation, PrivatAir provides a 48-seat Airbus 319LR, including crew, maintenance and insurance, for six weekly round trips. It also helped to establish special airport check-in and arrival procedures to spare executive passengers the ordeal of being processed through the conventional airport channels.

In October of the same year, Airbus entrusted PrivatAir with the operation of two 126-seat A319s for daily corporate shuttle services between the manufacturers’ plants throughout Europe. Then, in March 2003, based on the success of the Düsseldorf-Newark route, Lufthansa added Düsseldorf-Chicago flights using a 48-seat PrivatAir Airbus 319LR and six weekly Munich-New York round trips aboard a 48-seat BBJ.

In January 2005, Swiss International Air Lines commissioned PrivatAir to provide a similar service with a BBJ2 between Zurich and Newark, and since October 2005, it has operated six weekly round trips with a BBJ between Amsterdam and Houston on behalf of Dutch carrier KLM. The latter aircraft is flying an average of more than 18 hours a day, clocking approximately 6,700 flight hours each year. The company also has ETOPS approval for operating twin-engine aircraft on transatlantic flights.

PrivatAir is structured as a holding company with three main subsidiaries: PrivatAir SA, which is responsible for operations in Europe, including the Geneva FBO; PrivatAir GmbH, which handles German-based operations, including the two Airbus 319s operated on behalf of Airbus and three aircraft flying on behalf of Lufthansa; and PrivatAir, Inc., which is responsible for the company’s activities in the U.S.

Greg Thomas, CEO of PrivatAir since February 2003, claimed his company is successful in offering scheduled service to experienced airlines because it provides high-level business-class accommodations, from check-in and luggage handling, to guaranteed security and privacy, for which executive travelers are willing to pay a premium. He told EBACE Convention News that PrivatAir has experience in providing individualized service to demanding executives.

In addition to scheduled services, PrivatAir supplies aircraft for ad hoc executive and leisure group charter, including the 49-seat Boeing 757 based in Geneva and the 50-seat Boeing 767-300ER. The latter is probably the only aircraft of this type available for charter on the world market. The company also offers a Bombardier Global Express for charter in Europe.

In mid-2005, PrivatAir sold its FBO at Paris Le Bourget to Signature. According to a spokesman, the company has no intention of entering the third-party maintenance market or providing FBO services on a large scale. It contracts out maintenance of its aircraft–other than line repairs–to specialist companies, and intends to continue growing its executive charter and business-class scheduled services.

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