Air London is the one of the largest business air-charter brokers.

Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

AIR LONDON INTERNATIONAL, the UK-based aircraft-charter broker, has grown from modest beginnings at Gatwick over 35 years ago, to become a leading player in the arrangement and management of corporate-aircraft charters.

In 1995, Air London organised charters accounting for more than 10,000 flying hours; the company turnover reached £29 million ($45 million) and it reported a profit of £1.07 million, which represented a 60% improvement over the year before. Income is derived from taking a commission from the aircraft operator with, which the charter is arranged.

The year 1995 was significant, as the company become the first aircraft broker to be fully listed on the UK Stock Exchange, having initially entered the unlisted securities market (USM) in 1989 through a £2 million share placing.


Tony Mack, Air London's chairman and managing director, is the son of the company's founder. He has been involved in its expansion from a small, Gatwick-based, flying school to a major international charter organisation, which owns no aircraft.

"We got involved in the charter business by selling spare time on our flying-school aircraft," says Mack. "During the 1960s, Air London's fleet included light aircraft and business jets, but the decision was taken to dispose of the aircraft, and concentrate on the air-charter-broker business."

Air London has grown progressively, so that by the time it joined the USM in 1989, it employed around 20 people and had a turnover of about £10 million. "We peaked and troughed with the recessions, "remarks Mack. "We saw annual growth rates of around 35% during the 1980s, but this dropped to 20% during the recessionary years [of the early 1990s]."

The company employs 35 people in the UK, and, earlier this year, it moved to new, larger, premises in Crawley, Sussex, which is expected to encourage further growth. An office has been opened in Paris, France, which employs five people, and further "offshore" opportunities are being examined.

Air London's staff have varied backgrounds - some are "direct entrants" recruited straight from college and trained by the company, while others have more specialised backgrounds with broking or airline-operations experience. Three qualified pilots are on Air London's staff.

The company's operations, and its offices, are split into two main divisions - Executive (small aircraft) and Commercial (large aircraft) - with a dedicated team working in each sector. The flight-hour ratio is divided 60:40 in favour of the Commercial division, although, by its very nature, the corporate market has the higher number of actual flights booked.

Several computerised aids, are used by Air London, including its own Systematic Aircraft Location (SAL) database, and on-line worldwide meteorological information, in the form of the Jeppesen Flight Planning and Weather System. The SAL database, which was designed specifically for Air London, has been in use for over ten years, and provides data on 45,000 individual aircraft. The system is constantly updated, containing contact details on each aircraft's operator, as well as generic performance data on 500 aircraft types and variants.

The database holds latitude/longitude and aerodrome information for 15,000 airports and airfields. This links to aircraft-performance data, enabling route analysis to be undertaken. It can also provide a generic guide as to whether a particular aircraft is able to operate from/to the airports and on the routeing requested. It can calculate the number of technical stops required, and broadly estimate the flight time.


The operator/aircraft locations are held in zones so that, when it is seeking a candidate aircraft for a particular charter request, the database will extract all aircraft located within "positioning distance" of the required start-point. As well as providing a broader selection of candidates, this also enables the most competitive charter price to be sought.

The SAL database also holds information on Air London's customers, and their preferences. "Some of our corporate customers have a particular aircraft type or manufacturer they prefer, and this is noted on the system. We can even log information on a favoured interior colour, or an individual's known desire for certain types of flowers to be arranged within the cabin," says the company.

Mack believes that the database is one of the prime ingredients for his company's success, saying: "I'm sure SAL would be a very marketable product in its own right...but it's not for sale." While the executive team generally organises flights (by fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft) for businessmen or small groups, the commercial division's functions include the location of airliners for sub-charter work on behalf of airlines, and the transport of large groups to seminars. An Air London team can plan and co-ordinate large projects on behalf of a client. One recent example was a car manufacturer's requirement for 6,000 salespeople to attend a new-model launch in Spain. This project, which took six months to organise, involved 18 different aircraft, from a BAC One-Eleven to a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and 70 flights.

Air London has seriously considered diversifying into the fractional business-aircraft-ownership market in Europe, and was a major shareholder in the now-defunct Jet Network project (Flight International, 29 November-5 December, 1995, P4). Before its demise, JetCo cost Air London some £250,000 in start-up costs.

"We spent a considerable amount of money to find out that Europe wasn't ready for a fractional-ownership scheme," says Mack. "We did, however, secure some good charter clients from the JetCo project

Source: Flight International