Region V: Europe

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Business Aviation Fighting for Share of Spots at European Airports

Feb. 10, 2014

Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan on the shrinking number of spots for business aircraft.

When Terry Yeomans started working the numbers on aircraft movements at London-area airports like Luton (LTN) and Stansted (STN), he found something he considered alarming. Small general aviation aircraft had virtually disappeared from these airports and, as low-cost commercial carriers proliferated, the percentage of business aircraft movements declined.

“Luton is still open for business,” said Yeomans, a customer service manager for a major international trip-planning company. “But business aircraft operators are making up less and less of the overall movements there.”

“This is not just about Luton,” said Fabio Gamba, CEO of the European Business Aviation Association. “This is a problem we’re facing all across Europe. The situation is critical.”

Many airports see this as a matter of sheer numbers. Heavier, commercial aircraft bring airports more revenue in landing fees, as well as in concessions and services provided to commercial passengers. But Gamba and Yeomans said these airport operators may be losing sight of the long-term gains to be made as a result of business aviation.

“We need to get the message across to the [airport] community as a whole that squeezing out business aviation is simply bad for business,” Gamba said. “It will constitute a loss for you in terms of both business and attractiveness to the international business community. And when we [get the message out], we get good results. Authorities recognize there is something to be preserved. However, if the owners of the airport are more powerful than the cities that surround them, the situation becomes more difficult.”

Yeomans’ study showed that at Luton, business aviation movements peaked in 1994 at 54 percent of all aircraft movements. But after low-cost carriers, the percentage of business aircraft movements dropped remarkably. By 2012, business aviation accounted for just 20 percent of all aircraft movements at Luton, though the study shows the actual number of business aviation operations has increased since 1994.

Yeomans, a member of the board of directors at the British Business Aviation Association, found that what is happening at Luton is happening at other airports around the United Kingdom. In 1994, general aviation aircraft accounted for approximately 25 percent of all U.K. airport movements. In 2012, that dropped to just 11 percent.

“It will be interesting in 2014, because the European Union (EU) is taking a fresh look at its regulation of arrival and departure slots,” Gamba said. “We have had some amendments brought up by members of the EU Parliament who understand the value of business aviation. That could lead to a more business friendly environment. Time will tell, but we are hopeful.”