Avantair eyes international expansion

Washington DC
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Piaggio P180 Avanti fractional operator Avantair is looking to add Dallas and Chicago to its Florida, California and New Jersey bases as it continued to buck the US fractional industry trend, chalking up growth in recession.

Chief executive Steven Santo, at the opening of Avantair's operations control centre at its Clearwater, Florida headquarters, said an overseas Avanti operation - in Europe or Latin America - is also under consideration.

Avantair generated $36 million in revenues during the quarter ending 31 March, a 4% increase compared with the same period in 2009 and a 20% increase compared with the same period in 2008. With its fleet of 55 P180s, Avantair accounts for about 25% of the world's Avanti fleet and plans to take six to eight additional Avantis by the end of this year.

Avantair has over 1,100 customers, including more than 700 fractional owners, with the remainder purchasing time on its Avanti fleet through flight cards. Santo says most new customers picked up during the recession opted for flight cards, but many are starting to acquire fractions. "I think we're going to have a good summer selling fractions," he adds.

Several of Avantair's new flight card customers previously owned shares in jets that they have sold during the recession. Avantair has benefited from small jet customers seeking to downgrade to a more economical and environmentally friendly aircraft.

Santo says the Avanti is a logical alternative because it boasts a range and speed that nearly matches small jets but has significantly lower fuel burn. "In this market it's a great product," he says.

Almost 20% of Avantair's customers are from central Texas, says Santo, and the company is close to closing a deal that would see it acquire an existing fixed base operation and maintenance facility that is at least 3,715m² (40,000ft²), possibly at Dallas Love airport, perhaps by the end of the year.

He says Avantair is also interested in acquiring a facility in the Chicago area, possibly Palwaukee airport, but as yet has no deal in the offing.

He adds that in establishing a presence overseas Avantair would partner a local operator or "some type of investor that has interest in aviation. We'd never go in alone."

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