Brian Humphries, president of the European Business Aviation Association, is urging companies and individuals to fully use business aircraft during the economic downturn despite the vitriol that has been poured over the industry following the US automakers' public humiliation on Capitol Hill last month.
"With a faltering economy and diminishing business confidence, now is the time to re-establish the business by getting out and seeking new clients and deals, and servicing the customer base more proactively and efficiently than ever," says Humphries, a former chief executive of Shell Aircraft - the flight department of Royal Dutch/Shell energy group.
"Experienced business leaders know that a recession can be, ironically enough, a foundation for future growth. Forward-thinkers know that this is the time to begin promoting aggressively services and products, to increase profile, to cement reputations and increase market share in a diminishing market. They know that short-sighted competitors will be doing quite the opposite - cutting marketing budgets, depleting the workforce and cutting corners - in a vain attempt to rescue the bottom-line."
Humphries says it "has not gone unnoticed" that several major corporations, notably in the USA, are under fire for operating corporate aircraft. "The consensus among the less informed, it seems, is that these aircraft are merely perks for overpaid, undeserving chief executives. Little is ever printed about the fact that most business aircraft - and I say most because, like any other business tool they are not always used wisely - are undeniably the best and often only way for executives to maximise their productivity," he says.
He gives examples of executives using corporate aircraft to attend multiple meetings in multiple destinations within the course of one or two days, "to get contracts signed and develop new business". Such destinations are often not adequately served by commercial airlines, and seldom with schedules in line with business needs, Humphries says. "Don't damn business aircraft as a luxury or leave them in the hangar wasting money, use them now as the essential tool they are to re-establish your business and build the foundations of recovery."