São Paulo-based Icon Air, a relatively new services provider, is taking advantage of LABACE 2017 to introduce attendees to its product, giving visitors the chance to stop by its four hangars at the airport, and its own static display of semi-new aircraft on the ramp.
Icon’s general superintendent, Décio Galvão, sat down with AIN in a meeting room off the FBO’s VIP room and explained where the company is coming from and where it’s going.
“We plan to strengthen charter, grow fractional and continue with hangarage to serve operators," he said. "We are able to help our customers buy, sell and trade aircraft, we can make it happen for them. We can serve our clients regardless of their demands, with the right equipment to fly the mission."
Although the company is new in its current iteration, it emerged from familiar brands in the region. Last year CBAir, a charter firm with deep pockets, agreed to purchase Global Aviation, another long-time charter firm. Global Aviation wasn’t the only purchase; the company also acquired Reale Air Taxi, Passaro Azul charter and SSR, a services company.
The purchase of Global Aviation came at the depths of a recession. Why then? “The market was in difficulties, companies were selling aircraft and closing their doors. Our shareholder felt that it was the moment for us to enter the market," Galvão said. "Global Aviation, in the Brazilian aircraft charter market for 24 years, brought with it a portfolio of clients” as well as aircraft and strategically located hangars. In the recession, the firm also managed to assume hangar leases at more favorable rates. That optimism is already paying dividends. “We’re already feeling improvement, with clients more active and looking to trade up aircraft,” he said.
The operational merger began with the back office. All had separate ANAC registrations and licenses, separate sets of approved maintenance manuals and all the other paperwork. The plan is to merge all of this to “at most two companies,” standardizing at the highest level. The company is consolidating the fleets under the name Icon Air, and it launched the brand in May.
Icon Air has extensive installations at Congonhas, with its recent acquisition of a TAM airlines hangar, bringing its total to four. Among the services the company provides are “exposition of semi-new aircraft.” During LABACE the company had several aircraft on display on the ramp in front of the Passaro Azul hangar. “These aircraft are ours, and our clients’. Buying and selling aircraft is an important part of our business,” Galvão observed.
Charter Matches Mission
Icon Air fields the largest charter firm in Brazil, Galvão said, adding that charter is “an important part of our business today." Icon fields a full range of aircraft, including, turboprops, light jets, long-range jets, and turbine helicopters. The fleet incorporates varying interior configurations, allowing the company to match the aircraft to the customer's mission, he said.
“CBAir made a point of buying diverse equipment,” Galvão said, but “medium to long term, Icon will be diminishing the variety,” while maintaining varied capabilities. Even with varied equipment, Icon Air achieves economies of scale, on the price of fuel and insurance, simulator training (it signed an agreement with CAE at LABACE) and maintenance. “Despite the different models, we managed to negotiate better rates,” he said, “All these advantages accrue to managed aircraft, as well.”
In the fractional ownership market, Icon Air has several advantages, he said. Fractional share owners have access to the entire Icon fleet, paying a differential for a higher category aircraft. The fractional program is “more selective” because the company sells fewer quotas per aircraft. Icon Air is also marketing a jet card, where upfront payment entitles to client to special rates. There is still no specific regulation for fractional ownership in Brazil, although a new regulation—RBAC part K—is expected to be issued by year-end. “Part K will bring light to a market that is already large. Legally, it will remove obstacles," Galvão said. "Operationally, it will raise the bar, imposing requirements closer to those for air taxis. We may launch something under Part K, but we already meet the more rigid air taxi rules.”
Availability of aircraft is another Icon Air strong point. The country’s charter fleets include managed aircraft, registered to the operator’s operational specifications. “Global was very dependent on managed aircraft, while CBAir’s was entirely its own,” he said. “With third-party aircraft, the priority is always the owner’s use, which can hamstring an operator.”
Hangarage is Icon Air’s second-largest revenue source. “We’re strong in the southeast, with 11 hangars," Galvão said. In addition to the four at Congonhas Icon Air has two at Campo de Marte, one of which is just for helicopters; two in Sorocaba; two at Rio’s downtown Santos Dumont; and one in Brasilia, where the former Global hangar has been expanded to twice its original size. Icon Air will finish revitalizing the hangars over the next six to 12 months.