Italian business aviation charter operator Eurofly Service is aiming to establish a base in a fourth city by the end of the year as part of an expansion plan. The operator is also seeking to standardise its fleet on Dassault Falcon Jet aircraft as it increases its focus on large corporate flight departments across Italy.

Alberto Nathansohn, Eurofly director general, says the company is "having talks all over Italy" on either acquiring or "working in partnership" with smaller operators, including corporate flight departments. The company currently has bases in Ancona in central Italy and Milan in addition to its Turin headquarters. The priority is to establish a base in the north-east of the country, Nathansohn adds.

Eurofly recorded an 11% increase in flight hours booked during the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year. However, while light jet reservations between January and June fell by over a half, bookings for its large and super-large jets increased by 40% over the same period. Nathansohn says this vindicates a strategic decision taken in 2001 to focus on large companies with a requirement for medium- and large-cabin jets.

As part of this strategy, Eurofly aims to focus primarily on Falcon types, of which it owns six and manages two. The board has given approval to acquire an additional Falcon 2000, but before delivery it plans to shed several of its older types, including its Falcon 20s and Bombardier Learjets. However, Eurofly says it will continue to manage other business aircraft types until the charter market stabilises.

Eurofly has been actively networking around corporations in an attempt to increase aircraft utilisation from the current average of 60%. Italy has numerous medium-sized companies which own and maintain their own aircraft, says Nathansohn. Eurofly has received requests from several companies wanting to reduce their costs by outsourcing the management of these aircraft, which tend to be older types. Nathansohn is confident of upgrading these customers to newer, larger jets once they experience the "personal touch" that the company offers, he says.

Nathansohn says marketing activities by fractional and block charter programmes in Italy have raised awareness of business aviation among Italian companies, which has helped to stimulate the entire market. "Rather than us having to cut a smaller slice of the pie as a result of their entry into the market, they have expanded the size of the pie," he says.

Source: Flight International