Venture into European aircraft management could lead to the company competing with Jet Aviation and Tag Aviation

PrivatAir is set to expand into the European aircraft management market in a move that will bring it into direct competition in its home market with Swiss rivals Jet Aviation and Tag Aviation.

The Geneva-based company competes with Tag Aviation and Jet Aviation for aircraft management contracts in North America, but has restricted its business in Europe to executive aircraft charter with its owned fleet and a small network of fixed-base operations (FBO).

Greg Thomas, PrivatAir's chief operating officer, says the first priority is to appoint an aircraft management director, with the aim of securing the first aircraft contract early next year. The new business will be based in Switzerland, but is likely to include a PrivatAir FBO and office in London. The operator will also apply for a UK air operator's certificate to enable it to fly charters throughout the European Union, says Thomas.

"The European market will need more research than the USA, as tax regimes and regulatory concerns differ widely," says Thomas. PrivatAir's European aircraft management business will target the Benelux countries, France and Germany as well as Switzerland and the UK. He says that talks with four UK aircraft owners are ongoing and PrivatAir estimates having around 10 aircraft on its books by the end of 2003.

The company recently added four new aircraft to its managed fleet in the USA, taking the total to around 50.

The decision to offer aircraft management in Europe was taken before Jet Aviation was put up for sale earlier this year, says Thomas. He adds that "along with the rest of the world", PrivatAir considered acquiring its competitor, but rejected the idea as "the price expectation was too high", he says.

Meanwhile, PrivatAir's Boeing Business Jet all-business class service for Lufthansa from Düsseldorf to New York Newark is set to be extended due to "higher-than-expected" load factors, says Thomas. The six-times weekly service was launched in June. The operator is set to hammer out a new deal with the German flag carrier in November for the season starting in March 2003. A second route could be added.

Source: Flight International