Inside the Fence

Nov. 23, 2009

Impressions from the autumn road show ...

The annual NBAA convention in Orlando mirrored business aviation itself — significantly down; continued uncertainty. There was a sense, however, that the worst is behind us. The mood was one of resignation.

One topic that kept being raised at the various conferences this fall was that of alliances. NBAA and NATA are teaming up, moving the FBO Leadership Conference alongside Schedulers & Dispatchers. NBAA and AOPA are getting together to promote light aircraft.

Mike Boyd of the Boyd Group says that airline alliances are the next big thing, with the result being a better and more seamless travel experience for the customer. That’s assuming, of course, that the customer still has access to airline service in his or her community.

One company that is repositioning itself and which will place a greater emphasis on alliances in the future is BBA Aviation/Signature Flight Support. Long seen as the high price leader, Signature has instituted a new pricing strategy intended to help build business off the synergies of the array of BBA Aviation companies. The idea is to leverage one business line off another, and thereby stimulate more sales corporately.

But according to Bruce Van Allen, group marketing director for BBA and charged with this task, the company sees future expansion also tied to alliances with other companies. “As aircraft go to new countries, there is the potential to grow in the key markets by partnering with others,” explains Van Allen.

“The model becomes one of co-dependency ... perhaps even a mall concept.”

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On page 26 we feature a one-on-one interview with ACI-NA president Greg Principato. An outtake: “There are lots of different issues why air traffic control hasn’t been modernized. In the 1990s there were three very high profile Presidential commissions that all said this was the number one priority. Nothing got done; and the reason nothing got done was GA was concerned about the costs; the airlines, frankly, undercut it; the low-cost carriers shared the GA concern about the costs; the legacy carriers just refused to believe that it was an important issue. And at the time, though airports wanted it we didn’t jump both feet into the end of the pool.”

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Finally, from MIT research engineer Bill Swelbar, speaking at the Boyd Group summit ...

On the high hopes associated with new FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt: “To be able to expect one man to carry the football is unfair to him.”

On essential air service and communities maintaining access to the air carrier network: “Every Congressman does have some skin in this game.”

And on financing of the airline industry: “This industry destroys capital like no other.”

Thanks for reading.