“People do not understand what we do,” stated Marc Bailey from the British Business and General Aviation Association, speaking at yesterday’s Business Aviation Around the World conference, which brought together speakers from associations in numerous regions and nations. It was a message that was reiterated by other speakers: “The biggest challenge we face is the public acceptance of business aviation,” remarked NBAA COO Steve Brown. “It is not seen as a business tool, it’s seen as being excessive or unjustified.”
Such misconceptions have hindered the development of business aviation, particularly when they influence the decisions of governments. Punitive taxes continue to be applied to the sector, despite the best efforts of business aviation associations to present a reasoned case. Fabio Gamba from EBAA put it bluntly: “Are we helped by policy-makers? The straight answer is no! We’re being seen as a luxury, not a business tool. It is our mission to try to convince them that business aviation is a vital part of growth.”
Bailey also warned of the need to oppose punitive measures in one country before they spread to another. For instance, the UK is contemplating introducing new fees for providing customs and immigration services for business aviation. “Once one country does this,” he asserted, “others will follow. It is contagion.”
Speakers also outlined the disparate rates of growth in their regions. North America and Europe, for instance, have seen a dramatic slow-down since 2008, but suggest that the trend has turned a corner. Gamba noted that forecasts suggest that business aviation will not recover to the levels of the 2007-08 peak until 2017. “That’s ten years lost,” he added, although he admitted that the dramatic growth of the early 2000s had been unsustainable.
On a brighter note, speakers from Asia, India and Brazil reported considerable growth, but that itself has brought its own problems in the provision of infrastructure. David Best from the Asian Business Aircraft Association reported 15- to 20-percent growth, most of which was large aircraft used on long sectors. By 2020-22 Asian business traffic is forecast to have reached the level of where Europe is now. Such growth needs to be matched with an increase in maintenance and training facilities, as well as by education of authorities for the need for efficient business handling at a greater number of destinations. Rui Aquino, from Brazilian business aviation association ABAG, also reported growth, and again reiterated the need for improved facilities. The country, he noted, faces a particular challenge next year to meet the increased requirements for executive transport during the FIFA World Cup.