With an Airbus Corporate Jets ACJ350 and ACJ330 now in completion and scheduled to enter service in 2023 and 2024, respectively, VIP airliner charter operator K5 Aviation is readying plans to enter the VIP widebody market, said director Luca Madone, “We want to get the same reputation on the large platform that we established in the last 10 years on the small platform business,” he noted.
With four single-aisle ACJ319s in its fleet, along with the ACJ350 in completion at AMAC and the ACJ330 in completion at Fokker Techniek Aerospace—K5 is one of the world’s largest VIP bizliner operators. The company also operates a Bombardier Global 6000.
“We have many years of experience on the ACJ319 platform,” Madone said while acknowledging that the widebody segment “is completely new” for the German company.
K5 will showcase on Monday its newest ACJ319neo on static display, the brevity of its visit mandated by its busy charter schedule, Madone said. Both the ACJ330 and the ACJ350 will be EASA registered—the ACJ330 becoming the first EASA AOC for a VIP transport category aircraft, Madone said. Among the advantages, EASA approval will provide full traffic rights in Europe and the U.S.
During most of the pandemic, K5 has been riding a tailwind, he said. “There was a blackout period at the beginning, but from mid-2020 until now, it was an extremely busy time.”
Madone noted that bizliners are historically the most stable segment of the charter market, but said demand extended across all cabin categories during the pandemic. “Cessna Citations and small aircraft were also getting a very strong push, and that was interesting to see,” he added.
Another upside for providers has been the rise in charter rates, which many operators have criticized over the past decade as being too low to support a viable charter business. “That was necessary,” Madone said of rate increases. Unlike many operators forced to compete on price, K5 simply wouldn’t charter its jets—all managed for private owners—below its set rates. “We made those decisions in collaboration with the owners,” Madone said, but that left its Global 6000, for example, with little charter revenue. “Now the rates are definitely coming up, and our prices are being accepted,” he said.
When asked about the impact on its business of sanctions on Russia resulting from the invasion of Ukraine, Madone said, “We don’t disclose the ownership of our managed aircraft to the public, but the impact on aviation is huge.”
“What is going to happen in Europe is going to be very significant,” Madone predicted. “And unfortunately, I’m not very optimistic that we’ll find a solution to the problem before one or two years. Everybody who is not adapting to the new situation is either very lucky or has no idea what they’re doing.”
Asked about the possibility of adding Boeing aircraft as its VIP transport fleet expands, Madone said, “Boeing makes very good aircraft, and I believe it’s a very valuable competitor to Airbus. The fact that we have experience with the Airbus product and believe in it, and have Airbus in our [Europe-based] market, makes them better for us.”
Madone ia also glad about the restart of EBACE, which has been on hiatus for the past two years due to the pandemic. “The business we are in is built on personal relationships and this platform for interacting has been missing. I can feel that we are missing the personal exchange with the people, the industry, with suppliers and clients, and with other operators. At the end of the day, we are very dependent on each other.
“We are in competition one day and working as partners the next. So it's very important to keep our relationships with all these people, and EBACE is an excellent platform to do so,” Madone concluded.