Business aviation operator PrivatAir is close to signing deals with two London businesses to launch five-day-a-week transatlantic shuttles between the city's Stansted airport and New York Kennedy, using two of its three Boeing Business Jets (BBJs).

If the deal comes off, the Geneva-based carrier will be the only company running a regular Europe-USA corporate shuttle for a third party, says chief operating officer Greg Thomas. Car maker DaimlerChrysler flies four days a week between its twin head offices in Stuttgart and Detroit using an Airbus A319 Corporate Jet, operated by its own DaimlerChrysler Aviation subsidiary. The contracts would also lead to additional BBJ orders from PrivatAir, which is the only commercial operator of the long-range aircraft, says Thomas.

Companies which opt for corporate jets over regular airlines on transatlantic trips can break even by filling just 27 seats five days a week, based on discounted business class fares, he says. In its standard configuration, the BBJ seats 40. He adds that executives can also save around two hours on their entire journey by avoiding scheduled services at major airports. "We can take people from Manhattan by limo or luxury coach to the steps of the aircraft," he says.

He admits, however, that corporate travel faces image problems at a time of economic slowdown, and that airlines' ability to offer discounted packages for regular clients across all their routes put business aviation operators at a disadvantage. The two likely début customers are understood to be financial firms based in the City of London .

PrivatAir is re-branding two businesses it bought last month (Flight International, 13-19 March 2001). Connecticut-based Flight Services Group (FSG) and the Transair ground handling operation at Paris's Le Bourget airport will lose their separate identities. FSG, formerly Ogden, operates a fleet of Boeing 737s and 757s, including the three BBJs.

PrivatAir announced at EBACE plans to build a private terminal at Geneva airport and a $1.1million upgrade of the Transair facilities at Le Bourget, both to be completed by year-end.

Source: Flight International