Critics may decry it as a perk for a wealthy elite, but business aviation is a bulwark of Europe's economy, supporting 374,000 jobs and contributing €32 billion ($40 billion), or just under 0.2% of the total value of goods and services produced in the region each year. That is according to a study into the sector's economic impact, published on 14 March by the European Business Aviation Association.
That influence is becoming more important. The latest report follows a similar survey in 2016 of the 28 European Union countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, San Marino, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man that concluded business aviation was behind 371,000 jobs and boosted the continent's economy by €27 billion.
Persuading politicians and popular opinion that business aviation is a force for good, supporting hundreds of companies and tens of thousands of employees who never sit in the back of a corporate jet is one of the aims of the EBAA, which was established 34 years ago and has 650 members, operating more than 1,000 aircraft.
On top of its direct economic effect, the report – produced for the EBAA by Booz Allen Hamilton and the German aerospace research centre DLR – claims business aviation vastly improves connectivity within Europe, serving more than 25,000 city or area pairs not connected by direct airline flights, or almost one in three of all air connections.
Of the 374,000 employed directly or indirectly in business aviation, 192,000 are associated with aircraft operators, maintenance, repair and overhaul firms, or ground handlers and fixed-base operations; the rest are involved in manufacturing.
France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK are the four countries with the largest business aviation sectors, contributing 76% of the industry’s “gross value added” – its value to the economy each year.
In terms of those employed directly or indirectly in aircraft operations – in other words, excluding manufacturing – Germany tops the list with more than 35,000, followed by the UK with more than 24,000. Switzerland, Italy, France and Austria are the other big countries for jobs in the sector.
The report also makes the case for the increased productivity business aviation offers companies and their executives, allowing them to spend working what would be unproductive time transiting through commercial airports and flying in cramped airline cabins.
Using a complex formula that takes into account flying times and an assumption that it is easier to work on a private aircraft, the study maintains that business aviation users generate an average 153min of productive time by taking a business rather than commercial flight.
Robert Baltus, the chief operating officer of the EBAA, says the sector provides a great deal of value to European businesses. “Without business aviation in some regions, business connectivity would simply not be possible, and as a result new ventures and opportunities would never be realised,” he says.