Flying high

ExecuJet is one of the big players in the African private aviation space, with a presence in both South Africa and Nigeria, along with an international presence, thanks to its membership of the Luxaviation CMI group. Soon it will be expanding in to at least one other African country, and Gavin Kiggen, Director Aviation and Accountable Manager at ExecuJet Africa was on hand to answer a few questions.

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Q: How would you describe the state of the private aviation industry in South Africa?

A: Private aviation activity at our South African FBOs has increased, with 31% growth in flight numbers in Q1 2017 vs Q1 2016 at our FBO in Johannesburg, and 19% growth in the same period at our Cape Town FBO. However, new legislation implemented by the South African Civil Aviation Association (SACAA), with regards to private operations, is set to hamper growth in future aircraft sales. The new monthly aircraft register is a testament to the fact that we are seeing a slowdown in aircraft ownership. We are optimistic about future growth opportunities outside of the classic sphere of what we would term aviation, with, for example, the introduction of UAV/RPAS services to clients.

Q: Are there any particular trends that stand out?

A: Johannesburg remains the business hub, whereas our Lanseria charter division mostly do safari flights. Cape Town remains a destination primarily accessed for leisure and is popular all year round.

Q: How does the industry in South Africa differ from other African countries?

A: The economic and political landscape within South Africa, although turbulent at times, lends itself to a more stable and regulated operating environment. The Rand remains an attractive currency, especially at the levels at which it is currently performing against the US Dollar. South Africa has seen a 6.9% average annual growth in international visitor and tourist arrivals, most of which is inbound from the United Kingdom and Germany. South Africa still outnumbers international arrivals to all African countries at a 1:5 ratio, with the nearest country being Botswana.

Q: What sort of requests are you seeing from your corporate clients?

A: The majority of requests we receive are ad hoc; our clients will typically want to do a roadshow of their different branches or potential projects. Pricing is also very important, as the client is looking for real value when it comes to quotes and value proposition. Requests often span multiple destinations, so that clients get more ‘bang for their buck’ and as little time as possible out of the office.

Q: With belts being tightened, have you seen a reduction in spend from the corporate segment, and if so, is it significant?

A: Despite the rise in business aviation activity seen at our South African FBOs in the past 12 months, it is evident that corporate spend is still carefully considered. A quote is typically reviewed several times before being approved by a client, meaning a flight will only go ahead if it meets and adheres to all requests and regulations. It is common for our business clients to travel for an additional day or two, in order for them to get as much done as possible whilst travelling.

Q: What’s business in Nigeria like, taking into account the economic difficulties of the past few years?

A: Although the Nigerian economy is still relatively flat, ExecuJet has streamlined its operations in the country to adapt to the times. In the space of just one year, we have experienced 13% growth in business aviation activity at our Lagos FBO and fully expect this figure to grow year-on-year. ExecuJet Nigeria is recognised as a world-class business aviation service, operating to a high level in a very challenging environment.

Q: Are you planning on expanding into any new African countries in the near future?

A: Yes, we are planning expansion in Africa. An official announcement is to be made in the next couple of months.

Q: What does being part of an international group like the Luxaviation CMI group do for your business here in South Africa?

A: Being part of the Luxaviation Group, first and foremost, affords our FBOs increased traffic from abroad. All 25 FBOs in the Luxaviation Group are managed by ExecuJet, so we implement our universally high standards of customer service, flight safety and punctuality at each FBO in our network. Being part of a global group also enables us to seek out new opportunities. The knowledge that we have the financial support and backing of the group to drive acquisitions affords us the chance to benefit when opportunities arise.

Q: What is currently the most popular aircraft for business travel and why?

A: The Learjet 45 is still, by far, the most popular aircraft for our business aviation clients. The cabin holds eight seats, with plenty of room to swivel, recline and track. With a maximum flying distance of 1,800nm and a cruising speed of 465mph, the Learjet 45 is a fast, nimble and very well-priced jet, and will continue to serve our business aviation clients exceptionally well for years to come.