New entrants see opportunity in the U.S. market
BY Monica L. Rausch, Associate Editor
Does this scene sound familiar? A developer approaches a community about the multitude of opportunities for developing its airport — minus the runways and FBO. He possibly invisions the land housing an industrial park or cargo complex while the city leaders see a new stream of revenue.
More and more, U.S. airports are attracting companies that see the investment and business opportunities they offer. Among the newcomers are Avion Management Services, Inc., (AMS) an aiport contract management company, and Plane Stations, an aviation development firm.
Plane Stations is helping to carry out the business plans of its parent company, the Wiggins Group, PLC, a London-based real estate development firm. In the next seven years, says CEO Clinton Williams, the company plans to purchase/lease and develop sites at up to 20 airports in the United States. Its site at Smyrna Airport just outside Nashville, TN, is a pilot for this program.
Avion Management Services manages the day to day operations at the Oakland Troy Airport, 20 miles from downtown Detroit, and recently landed the management contract of Sandusky County Regional Airport, a new airport southeast of Toledo, OH. Anne Esposito, president of AMS, says management of other airports is also in future plans for the company.
Here's a look at what these two new players are doing and why they decided to enter the aviation arena.
From across the pond
Wiggins, PLC, got into aviation when they purchased the Manston Airport in England, some 60 miles southeast of London, according to Tony Freudmann, senior vice president of the company.
Right now the company is in the process of leasing some 300 acres in Smyrna, which will be a typical arrangement for the company with future airports. "Almost all of our activities in the States will be governed by some kind of a lease or a joint-venture partnership arrangement," says Williams.
If the company can land a contract for managing the airport, it will do so, says Freudmann, but developing land on an airport is its primary goal. Adds Williams, "We're not interested in running the day to day operations, as so much as we are developing the cargo and passenger services and doing retail and commercial development both on and off the airport."
In Smyrna, Plane Stations will build the structures, manage the cargo and passenger activities, and do "everything from from contracting all the way through flight deliveries," says Williams. Its primary customers on the passenger service end will be tourists out of Europe, say Williams and Freudmann. The company plans to use existing regional airlines and charter companies in the U.S. and Europe and act as the facilitator for both passenger and cargo transportation.
The majority of flights will be point-to-point, targeting a niche that doesn't exist right now for European travelers. Most flights on air carriers require changing planes both in Europe and the U.S., says Freudmann. "We're after an entirely new market; we're not trying to compete with the majors and take part of their marketshare away."
Adds Williams, "We don't have any intentions of setting up a hub and spoke system like major airlines...It will be charter work primarily into and out of the United States. And (with) some of that, we're going to transfer traffic to other airlines, so it's a complementary process rather than a competitive process."
The smattering of some 20 U.S. developments will complement the 80 or so airports or airport developments Wiggins is working on in Europe, says Williams. There Wiggins will either purchase the airports outright or have some type of lease arrangements. The company is currently in the process of aquiring a number of airports in Germany, France, and Italy, reports Freudmann.
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