WFS Eyes Further GA Growth After World Cup Boost
Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 FIFA World Cup provided a boost for the local aviation fuels industry, according to World Fuel Services (WFS). The Miami, Florida-based company (Booth 3010) noted that the entire Mercosur region (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia) benefited from the tournament for weeks, even before the first teams took to the pitch in June.
WFS presently supplies approximately 450 locations throughout Central and South America that are eligible to participate in the company’s FlyBuys loyalty rewards program. Last year the company expanded its contract fuel, Avcard and MS Aero Card customers internationally. As the tempo of World Cup preparations increased, WFS noted increased traffic in the region from multinational sponsors, media and equipment providers, leading up to the influx of tourists for the tournament itself. According to Lider Aviacão, Brazil’s largest private aviation company, which had a presence at all the host cities, it handled more than 6,200 aircraft operations and nearly 50,000 passengers during June and July.
WFS operates in the region as a fuel reseller and also provides transaction management services such as card payment solutions and merchant processing services, while serving as a conduit between the major fuel suppliers such as Petrobras, BP or ExxonMobil and the airport fueling agents. Its BaseOps division provides flight-planning and flight-support servicesf to customers in the region and around the world.
“The market really has not changed much from a supplier perspective,” said Leny Omillion, the company’s director of regional sales. “In most of Latin America you have the local refineries and/or some major suppliers that control the supply. In many cases they are the only supplier.” Yet, as business aviation aircraft deliveries to the region grow, so too does interest from aggregated services suppliers, such as WFS. “Due to globalization, more corporate jets are being delivered within the region and as a result all the players in the market are focusing more and more on Latin America,” noted Omillion, adding that competition is a healthy market driver that forces companies to excel. “In the end, the sun shines for everybody,” he told AIN.
Among the challenges WFS sees is dealing with businesses that are behind the curve in terms of customer transactions, those that require a great deal of manual activity or multiple steps. “There are certain locations within the region that are not [up-to-date] on the technologies for quick authorizations to process [transactions] or for fuel requests, but little by little there are locations or suppliers that have worked hard at streamlining the process,” said Omillion.
World Fuel has operated in Latin America on the commercial side for 25 years, and has spent the last 10 years dealing with general aviation as well. Omillion, who has been with WFS for the past decade, has observed steady growth of between 15 and 20 percent in that segment each year. With such numbers, it’s little wonder that the company views Latin America as a thriving market in the business aviation segment. Over the past several years, it has opened remote offices catering specifically to the industry in places like Toluca, Mexico, and São Paulo in its efforts to expand its footprint in the region.
It is also focusing more on regional strategic partnerships, according to Omillion, in order to service both international and domestic operators. Among its recent agreements, it has partnered with Santiago, Chile-based Aerocardal, a full-service FBO with its own tank farm and fuel trucks. It also is the first in Latin America to be accepted into WFS’s Air Elite FBO network, as its preferred ground handler and fuel distributor for business aviation at Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, and in Ecuador, with Equacentair its preferred FBO, handler and fuel supplier at Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport.
WFS bolstered its general aviation offerings with the announcement last month that it has signed an agreement to purchase fellow contract fuel and international trip-planning provider Colt International for approximately $63 million. “We look forward to welcoming the Colt team to World Fuel Services,” said WFS chairman, president and CEO Michael Kasbar. “Colt will further expand our global presence in contract fuel and international trip-planning services, driving strategic synergies in our growing general aviation business.”