Waguespack: Charter Consolidation Bringing Upside

 - April 11, 2022, 11:54 AM

The recent spate of charter company acquisitions is showing little sign of slowing down, but this consolidation may help the industry keep up with the overheated demand, according to a key industry executive. Recent weeks have brought major acquisitions such as Global Medical Response’s purchase of GrandView Aviation, Vista Global Holding’s deal for Jet Edge, and the purchase of Gulf Coast Aviation by Volato—a relative newcomer in the market.

Given the amount of activity in the market and the interest from investors such as KKR, this consolidation is likely to continue for some time, according to Ryan Waguespack, the executive v-p of aircraft management, air charter services, and MROs for the National Air Transportation Association. “We are a cottage industry with a lot of mom-and-pop operations,” he told AIN, noting that there are nearly 2,000 Part 135 carriers in the sectors and only a few hundred of those would be considered large multi-turbine aircraft operators.

While a significant amount of consolidation typically can be worrisome, in this case Waguespack believes it may produce a stronger market overall. He said the charter industry is facing unprecedented demand that is showing no signs of ebbing.

“People are very bullish on private aviation,” he remarked, changing the dynamics of the market. This is causing shortages in available aircraft to charter or to find on the market for which to expand fleets. These types of mergers and acquisitions are helping operators build out their fleets to manage this demand.

Another issue has been FAA resources. The agency’s resources are inadequate to keep up with the growth or additions, and operators are finding it harder to get the necessary approvals in areas such as training and MELs. Consolidation can ease that stretch.

However, Waguespack said perhaps among the biggest concerns with the market growth is workplace recruitment and retention. On the recruitment side, larger operators may be able to offer better packages and have more capacity for training; on the retention side, they may provide more opportunities for growth.

For smaller operators that are facing an overburdened workforce, consolidation makes sense, giving them more resources to tap into, he said. This is particularly important as smaller staffs become overburdened with little relief.