Spain’s growing bizav sector weathers the economic storm

EBACE Convention News » 2009
May 6, 2009, 7:01 AM

In the not-too-distant past, Spain’s business aviation sector consisted of one major operator, Gestair, and a sprinkling of smaller companies each operating barely a handful of aircraft. In the last two years the picture has changed dramatically, with the established companies maintaining their prominence and new companies making an impact on the scene despite the financial crisis. In addition, airport facilities and FBOs are improving to meet the challenge of the fast growing business aircraft market.

Gestair, founded by Jesus Macarrón as Gestiones Aéreas, entered Spain’s embryonic business aviation field in 1977 beginning operations with a Cessna 340. Now Gestair claims to be the country’s leading business aviation group, with 60 percent of the domestic charter market, and the third largest European operator. Its executive aviation unit, Private Aviation, flew a record 11,136 hours and transported 18,272 passengers in 2006. José Ramón Barriocanal, general manager of Gestair Private Aviation, told EBACE Convention News that due to increasingly fierce competition in the Spanish market, Gestair closed 2007 with a total of 9,176 hours flown and 15,234 passengers transported, and these totals fell again in 2008.

The end of last year saw a significant downturn in the entire Spanish private aviation market but the first quarter of 2009 has been better than expected. “Due to the unusually pronounced economic downturn we have adjusted our strategy regarding operating our own aircraft and are concentrating on managing our clients’ aircraft,” said Barriocanal. “Despite the crisis, we added six new aircraft to our fleet, three of them replacements.”

While about 85 percent of customers are business travelers, the Gestair Airlines division, under an agreement with flag carrier Iberia, operates two Boeing 757s and three Airbus A340s on long-range routes to South America, including to Havana, Santo Domingo and Rio de Janeiro, and to various destinations in Spain and Europe.
Gestair’s other enterprises include aircraft sales, acquisitions and pilot training. The company also operates three light helicopters and one DC-8 freighter. Gestair and Iberia recently created Corjet Maintenance Europe S.L. as a new maintenance joint venture to combine Gestair’s business jet experience with the Spanish flagcarrier’s extensive infrastructure.

Gestair operates seven FBOs in Spain; five of them are located at Palma, Burgos, Pamplona, La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela. It also operates a base at Madrid’s Torrejón Airport, where there are still obstacles for business aviation because of military movements and weather conditions. The contracts under which business aviation companies operate at Torrejón end this year, so they will have to relocate to another site before finally moving to the new airport of Navalcarnero.

The seventh base is at Barcelona El Prat airport’s business aviation terminal, where Spanish airports and air navigation authority AENA has assigned one of its two new FBOs to a joint venture formed by Gestair and airline representative and general aviation handling agent Assistair. The license to operate the facility runs from March 1 of last year to the end of this year, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

Six business aviation operators at Barcelona El Prat accounted for 4,000-plus movements last year, 1,400 of them operated by Gestair. The Barcelona FBO concession is the first stage in the Gestair’s 2007-2010 strategic plan under which it expects to invest large sums to expand its fleet and FBO network by 2012.

Gestair Managed Fleet
•    Two Global Expresses
•    Citation Encore, Ultra, Mustang and three CitationJets
•    Falcon 900, four Falcon 2000s
•    Gulfstream G200, GV, G550
•    Two Hawker 400XPs, an 800XP, 900XP, Premier I and Beechcraft King Air 350
•    Learjet 55B
•    Legacy 135
•    Westwind 1124 IIBᷧ

Executive Airlines Ranks Second in Spain
Since it was founded in 2000, Executive Airlines has established itself as Spain’s second-ranking business aviation operator. Leisure trade industrialist Manuel Lao started operations with his Dassault Falcon 900EX and a Cessna Citation Bravo, later adding a Bombardier Learjet 45 and a Citation CJ1. Under CEO Juli López Segú, the four jets were subsequently offered for third-party business aviation operations.

The company serves medium-, long- and extra-long-range routes, especially to the U.S., Latin America, Asia and the Gulf. In 2006 it was the first operator to be selected for Jet Aviation’s Skylliance program, established among operators covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Executive Airlines is the only Spanish company to date authorized to operate out of London City Airport, which it does with its Dassault Falcon 7X and Cessna Citation Bravo. The company is also modifying its Learjet 45 for the same operation.

In 2008 Executive Airlines increased its fleet from 12 to 22 jets, 15 of the total (including eight of the new aircraft) are Gulfstreams. Two more Gulfstream G200s are to be incorporated into the fleet during the first half of this year and talks are under way for further additions.

Now the company will set its sights on establishing new bases in the main European capitals. It plans to operate commercial offices in Russia, Dubai and Switzerland, followed by bases in India, China and other Far Eastern countries.

In addition to aircraft management and chartering, the company’s other activities include sales and acquisition services, handling and flight planning.

Executive Airlines has received AENA approval to establish an FBO at Barcelona, adding to its facilities at Madrid Torrejón, Gerona and Valencia. According to Executive Airlines commercial director Sergio Saz there is no other business terminal of this quality and size in Spain, and the Barcelona facility “compares favorably with the top-class terminals established in other European cities.”

Jets Personales claims to be the country’s first private jet operator that owns all its aircraft. Launched in December 2004, the company is based at Torrejón, where it operates an FBO comprising two VIP lounges, a presidential room, a 24/7 kitchen providing personalized menus, an operations center, full handling and a maintenance team.

The company added three aircraft to its fleet in 2008: a Bombardier Challenger 850, a Learjet 60XR and a Challenger 604. It has agreed to buy nine more aircraft from the Canadian manufacturer over the next few years, perhaps including a Challenger 605.

Executive Airlines Fleet
•    Cessna Citation Bravo, two CitationJets, two Citation XLSes
•    Three Gulfstream G150s, seven G200s, three G550s, one GIV-SP
•    Hawker 400XP
•    Learjet 45Ī

Other emerging companies include Murcia-based JetNova, Barcelona-based Corporate Jets XXI and Madrid-based BKS Air and Soko Aviation.    

Jet Personales Fleet
•    Challenger 300, 604
•    Gulfstream IV
•    two Learjet 60s

JetNova Fleet
•    Citation CJ2 and Citation XLS
•    Global Express XRS

Corporate Jets XXI Fleet
•    Citation 560 XLS
•    Falcon 900C

BKS Air Fleet
•    Beechcraft King Air C90, B200
•    Citation II
•    Fairchild Metro III
•    Learjet 60

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