The one-day Air Charter Expo (ACE 2019) at London Biggin Hill Airport wrapped up on September 17, having “broken all previous records,” according to Simon Weston, chairman of co-organizer the Air Charter Association (ACA). With 1,150 pre-registrations and an estimated 1,000 turning up, more than 20 business aircraft and 70+ exhibitors, Weston was upbeat on the growing event and also on the 70-year-old association’s growing influence—highlighting that illegal “gray” charter remains its number one issue. “Illegal charter continues to dominate,” Weston told gathered brokers and operators, while announcing that ACA is about to launch a poster campaign at airports under the banner “Is Your Flight Legal?”
He also noted the recent rebranding of ACA which laid the foundations for going “more international” by creating links with other associations around the world. At ACE, ACA also held sessions focusing on illegal charter, introducing its new Broker Qualification Course, and discussing the relationships between brokers and operators—against a backdrop where some operators are going direct to clients.
In a session on “The Future of Brokering” that kicked off the day, delegates welcomed ACA’s focus on training and standards, which is set to continue to grow, said Weston; and discussed the way the market has become crowded and the same requests are being handled by so many that operators struggle to cope. “The market hasn’t grown but the number of brokers has grown exponentially,” said Matthew Savage of Smart Aviation.
In his address, Weston suggested brokers and operators within the ACA membership were forming working groups to see how they could work more efficiently and, in the words of Neil Harvey of Hunt & Palmer, “keep more of the margins in the market” in the face of customers that are less loyal and who want to force prices as low as they can exploiting excessive competition.