The French Riviera airports at Nice and Cannes are investing in business aviation infrastructure in a bid to keep the rich and famous coming back to the Cote d’Azur’s exclusive resorts. “The region realizes the importance of this type of clientele and knows that it has alternatives in places like Spain,” said Jonathan Howells, regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa with Universal Weather & Aviation, which has just moved into the new general aviation terminal (GAT) at Nice.
The new GAT has been developed from an old building that formerly was used for flights to Corsica. It has provided a 16,000-sq-ft space to be shared by three FBOs: Swissport Executive Aviation (a joint venture between Swissport and Universal), Signature Flight Support and Landmark Aviation.
According to Swissport Executive Aviation deputy manager Richard Squires, the new GAT overcomes a long-running problem of business aircraft passengers and crew having to arrive and depart through the main terminal at Nice. The GAT will have its own customs and immigration facilities and direct access to the ramp.
With the Mediterranean Sea on one side of the airport, space is at a premium in Nice. “The airport did the right thing in building one terminal to be shared by three [handling] companies, because there isn’t the space for three separate FBOs there,” said Howells. “Swissport Executive has the only VIP lounge with a window overlooking the ramp area.”
The Swissport facility also includes a welcome desk, a 2,825-sq-ft passenger lounge with a TV, drinks and Wi-Fi connections. There is also a 1,766-sq-ft crew lounge and a meeting room, plus an operations suite.
On the ramp, Swissport Executive has invested in a full set of ground support equipment to handle aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 747. During the busy summer season, the FBO increases its core staff from 36 to 60 to serve up to 3,000 movements that it receives during July and August.
Over the past two years traffic volumes generally have been down about 20 percent at Nice but, according to Squires, for the first few months of 2010 it was about 10 percent up on the same period in 2009. “Nice is a desirable destination, but it is not an essential one, mainly based on the leisure market,” said Howells, predicting that the forthcoming Monaco Grand Prix car race and the Cannes film festival will be key indicators of how the bizav market is recovering.
Universal and Swissport established the Nice joint venture in 2001 to comply with local handling license rules. It now claims 48 percent of the local market for handling business aircraft.
Just down the coast at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport more space for parking and maintaining business aircraft has been provided with a new hangar that can house up to around 20 piston-powered aircraft and light jets weighing up to six metric tons (13,227 pounds) in 21,500 sq ft. An additional 12,900 sq ft has been set aside for maintenance workshops and offices. Training organization Ifaero has already moved into the new premises.
The $3.7 million building was inaugurated in April. Efforts to make it environmentally friendly include maximizing the natural light in the hangar and a ventilation shaft that brings in outside air via underground ducts.
Another two hangars for business aircraft weighing up to 22 tons (48,400 pounds) are planned at Cannes. Each will have a surface of 45,000 sq ft, of which 32,000 sq ft will be available for parking aircraft. Depending on customer demand, the first could be open in 2012 and the second in 2014, airport manager Olivier Dufour told AIN. From June this year, Cannes will also offer an additional 48,000 sq ft of outdoor parking.
The local Chambre de Commerce owns and operates both Nice and Cannes airports. They are exhibiting jointly here at the EBACE show (Booth No. 542).