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Online Extra

When Is It Time to Consider a Corporate Shuttle?

Whether a company has been operating a corporate shuttle for years or has just launched a scheduled operation, NBAA’s Corporate Shuttle Working Group (CSWG) is helping Members navigate the sometimes challenging process of establishing and running a shuttle. The group relies on a combination of benchmarking and best practices, with a hefty addition of Member feedback, to provide support to its community.

“A lot of organizations let go of their corporate shuttles over the past five years,” according to a longstanding member of the CSWG, a subgroup of the Domestic Operations Committee. However, there are signs that interest in such operations is picking up. The CSWG saw an increase in participation and membership last year as companies discover (or re-discover) the value of a corporate shuttle.

The working group supports organizations at all stages of development. Many are large companies that have had shuttles for years; several are seeking to add a shuttle, while others are just launching a scheduled operation.

Demonstrating the Value of a Shuttle

“The decision to implement a corporate shuttle usually happens when a review of company travel records shows a strong demand for one or more city pair combinations,” says Mark Larsen, NBAA staff liaison to the CSWG. One of the CSWG’s initiatives is to help new entrants to the field determine the justification for a corporate shuttle operation.

The majority of CSWG members run scheduled service between city pairs throughout the week, although the scope of each enterprise varies. One operator runs six different shuttles seven days a week; another flies its aircraft twice a day on one route, four days per week. In most cases, there is limited or no available airline service between the cities to which they are flying.

From a productivity standpoint, notes a CSWG member, it makes sense to run a corporate shuttle when there is sufficient demand for frequent trips between two points. “You have more control over your travel,” he says.

However, demonstrating to senior management or shareholders the value of a corporate shuttle can be challenging, and can depend on the size of the organization, as well as its culture. There’s also the matter of the flight department – is this a self-run operation or is it externally managed? The majority of CSWG flight departments are self-managed. For the larger organizations, the cost argument is less of an issue.

Another consideration: the visibility of operating a business airplane is something many organizations take into account, especially at a time when companies have been met by waiting news crews at airports.

In light of this reality, one pilot who is a CSWG member says it’s important to be prepared to explain to internal and external audiences the value of a corporate shuttle to the entire company.

“More often than not, you don’t see the CEO on a corporate shuttle,” notes the pilot. “You’ll see engineers, human resources employees, sales reps and others. It’s a great way for us to transport our vendors as well.”

NBAA’s Larsen agrees, noting that the case for corporate shuttles often has been helped by the fact that usually there are no restrictions on which company employees can fly on it. “The value is very tangible to employees across the company,” he says.

Understanding Rules and Regulations

Those new to shuttle operations have a laundry list of items to consider as they spool up, including a host of challenging regulatory hurdles. The FAA’s decision several years ago to enforce Part 125 in the business aviation community threw a lot of confusion into the mix.

“It was a big transition,” says one CSWG member who flies for a company with a well-established shuttle operation. “To this day, we are dealing with interpretation issues surrounding Part 125 operations.”

Several Part 91 operators are looking to move up to Part 125, but are concerned about the more stringent regulations. “That’s something the working group has had to address,” Larsen says. “There have been a lot of questions from new operators, and we have helped put them in touch with the right sources to help guide their decision-making.” The CSWG is “a great resource because we’ve all gone through it,” says a leading member of the group.

The CSWG met recently to review the latest hot topics in corporate shuttle operations, one of which is a renewed interest in reservation systems that cover the flight, rental car and hotels for specific city pairs. Despite the availability of commercial computerized reservations systems, which are robust enough to meet the demands of a busy flight department, it can be difficult to tailor the program to suit an organization’s specific needs.

One company said it hired a firm that has nearly completed a model that may bridge the gaps between a large airline reservations system and an ad hoc, in-house system. CSWG members suggested a requirements document could help determine future functionality of such a system for other companies.

Alternative lift is another area being explored by the CSWG. Smaller businesses operating a single aircraft are faced with myriad issues when that aircraft is down. The question facing those organizations is how to justify alternate or supplemental lift in those cases.

Corporations with established operations can offer tips not only on where and how to use supplemental lift, but also how to present such a proposal to management. This kind of knowledge sharing, whether about alternate lift or any other issue facing a flight department, is the CSWG’s strength.

Companies of every size get to pick each other’s brains for answers to their everyday challenges. For members of the CSWG, the regular exchange of ideas is guidance enough. “Is there one burning issue we’re working on as a committee?” asks a longtime committee member. He pauses and then answers simply, “We’re just here to support organizations that have corporate shuttles.”

For More Information

Download the presentation “Best Practices in Corporate Shuttle Operations”

To download additional presentation from NBAA’s 64th Annual Meeting & Convention, at review the presentations in the NBAA2011 Online News Bureau.

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