Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, the CEO of London Executive Aviation (LEA), one of Europe’s biggest business jet charter operators, is calling on the business aviation industry to promote time-saving benefits rather than giving out 'luxury messages' in its marketing this summer.
Speaking ahead of the annual meeting of the British Business & General Aviation Association (BBGA) later this month, Margetson-Rushmore says: “After a very tough recession, private jet charter operators stand to do good business this summer, thanks to Euro 2012 and the Olympics. However, we risk squandering the chance of a sustained recovery after these events if we don’t portray ourselves intelligently.
“The BBGA and the European Business Aviation Association do a great job in communicating the invaluable benefits we offer, namely efficient and convenient travel. But there is still a temptation for many operators to emphasise ‘the champagne lifestyle’ in their marketing, which is self-defeating folly given the general public mood,” Margetson-Rushmore continues. “The Zeitgeist is still very critical of excessive City bonuses, so it is vital we distance ourselves from so-called ‘corporate greed’. We should instead promote the true value of business aviation, which is all about saving precious time, an important ingredient for the economic recovery that will benefit us all.
“After the ‘tarring and feathering’ our reputation received during the credit crunch, there is a lot of PR damage our industry has to repair,” he says. “The BBGA can lead the way, but can only succeed if we present a united front. Only once we have detoxified the public’s perceptions of chartering an aircraft can a sustained industry recovery truly get underway.”
According to Margetson-Rushmore, the Olympics offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of business aviation. “The fact is we have an essential role to play in the south-east’s overstretched air transport system. The Olympics will bring a huge number of people into London and our major airports will struggle to handle this volume.
"Heathrow Airport operated at 99.2% of its annual limit for flights in 2011 and has severe capacity issues. On its busiest days during the Olympics, Heathrow expects to handle 138,000 passengers, a 45% increase over normal levels. This increase is despite takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow being reduced during the Games from around 43 to 36 per hour. Therefore, not only will business aviation allow many to visit London without delays, but we will also be taking an important share of the strain on London’s travel infrastructure. This is a story we should be promoting.”
Euro 2012 gives operators another chance to promote messages of time-saving and value, according to LEA’s chief executive. “Fans travelling abroad face significant challenges because of where the matches are to be played, and these problems could worsen if England is as successful as we hope. Fans may need to shuttle between Donetsk and Kiev in Ukraine to support the team in the group stages, which could be a challenge as the cities are more than 400 miles apart. If England make the semi-finals, supporters may have to fly to Warsaw to watch the match. And, if the team gets to the final, fans may need to fly back to Kiev.”
With limited options for scheduled air and ground transportation, this situation is almost a case study for why business aviation is so invaluable, says Margetson-Rushmore. “Rather than losing days or weeks out of the office, fans chartering aircraft with their friends could fly out to see all the live action and be home again within hours. Splitting air charter costs between six or eight passengers could make the expense per person very attractive, especially when you factor in savings on hotels and ground transportation. Explained in this way, the financial attractions of what we offer become far clearer and less elitist to potential critics.
“Summer 2012 offers us all a great showcase for what we do as an industry,” Margetson-Rushmore concludes. “I hope we take advantage of the opportunity in a way that yields us the maximum mutual, lasting benefit.”