This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) has called on European governments to take urgent steps to safeguard the future of the industry, while ensuring that in the short term it can continue to support efforts to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In an open letter sent jointly with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and national industry groups, EBAA presented an action plan including relaxation of some travel restrictions, the extension of pilot licenses and airworthiness certificates, and financial aid through guarantees, credit, and the suspension of taxes and fees.
Suspension of all taxes and fees that apply to business aviation companies should last “for at least six months or until the industry is back to a sound operational and financial situation,” the associations said. Other requested measures include a maximum flexibility for maintenance tasks and flexibility in the travel restrictions, especially in the case of business aircraft providing medical services, repatriating citizens to their home countries, and delivering aircraft, engines, and spare parts that are needed to maintain these operations.
They pointed out that business aircraft are being used for essential operations such as providing medical services and the repatriation of displaced people to their home countries. EBAA urged authorities in the European Union (EU), Switzerland, and the UK to be more flexible over travel restrictions and even suspend bans on flights that meet the requirements of the World Health Organization.
The associations said they support the efforts agreed by the European Aviation Safety Agency and national authorities to grant extensions to licenses and certificates. They stated that many business aircraft pilots cannot currently travel to the simulators they need for recurrent training since many of these are located outside Europe.
According to EBAA, the continent’s business aviation companies urgently need help ensuring financial liquidity to protect the estimated 374,000 jobs directly and indirectly associated with the industry. It also asked for “maximum flexibility” from regulators on aircraft maintenance requirements, including extensions to intervals and certificates, as well as fast-tracking of approvals for staff.
In the letter, the industry groups pointed out that estimated revenue losses for small and medium-sized business aviation enterprises range from around 50 to 90 percent. They referred to Eurocontrol data from the last week of March showing a 72 percent decrease in business aviation traffic in Europe.
The proposed plan also called for national governments to provide financial support to companies to cover the costs of staff who are unable to work. It also urged governments to suspend other regulatory initiatives that could undermine the sustainability of business aviation during the crisis, such as the EU energy taxation directive and non-urgent consultation and rule-making activities.
The letter was signed by EBAA secretary-general Athar Husain Khan and GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. It was endorsed by national business aviation groups in France, Germany, Spain, Israel, Switzerland, Malta, and the UK, as well as by the Air Charter Association.
“The measures detailed in our letter today aim at the same objective—helping safeguard as many companies as possible in our sector,” said Khan. “Business aviation has a vital role to play in the fight against Covid-19 and the post-crisis European recovery.”
Bunce commented: “The general and business aviation industry pays tribute to all those working tirelessly to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Our industry stands ready to work in partnership with the EU institutions and national governments to continue to support relief work, deliver medical supplies, and to implement the measures outlined in this letter, which will help pave the way for recovery both in terms of health and the economy.”
“Our sector is severely impacted,” Khan told AIN. According to Eurocontrol data, business aviation traffic across Europe plunged 72 percent in the last week of March compared to the same time in 2019 and about a third of operators have halted operations. A recent survey of 130 European business aviation CEOs revealed that the majority anticipates deep financial losses and is concerned about staff retention costs, fixed location costs and taxes.
There are EU funds, such as EU Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, and national schemes that offer support to employers to retain staff, Khan said, highlighting that “the access to those financial instruments should be simple, straightforward, and streamlined as many of our members are small and medium sized companies. They don’t have the time or staff to go navigate through complex procedures.”
On April 7, at 12 noon EDT, EBAA's Khan and GAMA's Bunce will be panelists for a special AIN webinar (free registration) to discuss business aviation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The panel will also include Duncan Aviation COO Jeff Lake.