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Business Aviation: Fast, Flexible and Cost Effective

Dassault Falcon 2000S, on site at CBAA 2019 static display

It’s easy to understand the appeal of business aircraft: they take you where and when you need to go reliably and efficiently, whether it’s to a remote location, a small community that has no scheduled service or to meet with a customer halfway across the planet.

It is no surprise that companies that use business aircraft are the superstars of the corporate world. In the U.S., over 95 per cent of companies that are ranked the Most Admired, Top Performers or World-Changers use business aviation. It’s a similar story in Canada. TSX-60 companies that use business aircraft outperform those that don’t by 43 per cent.

These impressive numbers beg a question: what came first? The aircraft or the wins? You may be surprised to learn that in almost all cases, using business aircraft came first – and went hand in hand with building success and corporate value. The freedom and flexibility provided by business aircraft are not rewards – they are an integral part of a corporate success strategy.

In a lot of ways, the reasons companies chose to use business aviation are the same as the reasons that people chose to use their own vehicles rather than public transit. On the surface, transit is a lot cheaper than using a car – in fact, studies show that it’s 10 times cheaper. But you get what you pay for. You are at the mercy of the transit schedule, routes, and face long line ups and overcrowding, cancellations and delays. These aren’t insignificant issues – they affect your life. You must get to work on time regardless of the weather or distance. You must deliver your kids to school, appointments and activities and when all that is done, you are your own delivery service, transporting everything from groceries to Christmas trees to building materials to your home. Transit simply doesn’t cut it, so most of us manage the cost of our vehicles because it’s a necessity, not an option.

The case for using business aircraft is similar but magnified. It’s not only about personal freedom and choice – it is also about creating and running a successful and competitive business. Your bottom line, the job security of your employees, and your future success depend on your success. Business aviation gives you an immediate competitive advantage. A business aircraft is a private office in the sky: secure, confidential and connected. You can direct your staff, take meetings, hold conference calls, plan strategies or do research. Using business aviation ensures that your time isn’t squandered sitting in airports or hotel rooms waiting for the next flight, saving you hundreds, or even thousands of hours of non-revenue generating downtime.

It comes down to your business mindset: are you looking to grow? Or are you in a holding pattern? Maybe you want to reverse a decline. If you want to take a step forward from any of these positions, business aviation can be a powerful and surprisingly affordable tool.


The cost/benefit advantage

Claiming that business aviation has a cost/benefit advantage over scheduled carriers may seem counterintuitive, but the fact is, depending on your destinations and the number of hours you fly, business aviation is not only cost-effective, it is a justifiable and reasonable business expense.

For example, when I was director aviation and travel at Walmart Canada, I routinely had to justify the cost of deploying our aircraft to C-suite executives. To do that, we designed a program call U-CAR, which was a spreadsheet that analyzed the cost of operating aircraft against executive time saved and the number of business actions that were successfully advanced. Time and again, U-CAR consistently showed that using business aircraft was not only cost-effective, but that in many instances, business aviation was demonstrably more cost-effective than using a scheduled carrier.

Not every company needs to own an aircraft to take advantage of business aviation’s freedom. There are many ways to access business flights; full ownership is not the only option. Your situation and needs will determine how much lift you require.


Under 25 hours: charter

Also known as “on demand,” charter is the equivalent of renting a car. You pay for what you use based on an hourly or daily rate, or you can book blocks of time on an ongoing basis; it’s a turn-key operation. All you have to do is book your charter and show up at the hangar or aerodrome. The charter company does all the work for you. Not only do you get door-to-door service, you can try out different aircraft.


25 hours: fractional ownership

As your hours and needs increase, you may need guaranteed access to business flights on short notice or a familiarity with a certain type of aircraft configuration. In that case, fractional (shared) ownership might be for you. The larger the size of your share, the more access to the aircraft you have. As with charter, just arrive at the hangar and your fractional management company will take care of the rest.


25 hours and beyond: full ownership

A number of companies need access to one or more aircraft 24/7, and for them, full ownership is the answer. There are a lot of ways to approach the cost and responsibilities of operating aircraft. Many large companies, as well as single aircraft owner/operators, manage their aircraft in-house while others turn the responsibility over to one of Canada’s flight management companies. In either case, these aircraft are ready to deploy at any time, giving these companies unparalleled freedom to act decisively.


Where to get more information

Get a guided tour of over 15 different business aircraft and meet with providers at the Canadian Business Aviation Association’s Convention and Exhibit in Calgary, July 9th– 11th. If you are an aviation professional or just want to find out more about business aviation, CBAA 2019 has a lot to offer, including targeted educational sessions and a special one-day rate to tour the exhibit and aircraft static display. Find out more at www.cbaa-acaa.ca.

If you want to start using business aircraft, Alberta is home to a number of excellent flight management and fractional ownership companies that can guide you through the process, step by step. Hope to see you aloft and on the move.