NetJets Europe looks for airport partnerships

By Kate Sarsfield

NetJets Europe is seeking to establish partnerships with strategic European airport operators in an effort to obtain regular and sustained runway access and reduce travel times for its customers.

The move comes as the Lisbon-based fractional ownership and charter company prepares to complete the acquisition early next month of Germany's Egelsbach airport 11km (7 miles) north of Frankfurt. The acquisition of Egelsbach marks NetJets first foray in to airport ownership and strengthens the Berkshire Hathaway-owned company's foothold in the lucrative German market.

"We are not in the airport business," says NetJets Europe chief executive Bill Kelly. "Our primary focus is on customer service and we will do whatever it takes to improve the experience for our customers." Having Egelsbach in its portfolio will enable NetJets to tap into the region's large base of high net-worth individuals and businesses and will allow existing customers to access the financial capital at times convenient to them rather than the airport.

"This isn't possible at the moment," Kelly says. "Our hit rate at Frankfurt is 30-40%, so we have to fly to Frankfurt Hahn airport [about 100km to the west]."

The picture is similar across Europe, Kelly says, where poor access for business aircraft to major European airports, notably Amsterdam Schiphol, Geneva International, Nice Côte d'Azur and London's Heathrow and Gatwick has provided a major obstacle to operators for years. The formation and expansion of secondary airports across the region, especially around London - home to Biggin Hill, Luton and Tag Farnborough airports - has helped to ease the burden, but the problem still persists. "Airlines bring in far more revenue for these major airports than business aircraft, so they will always get priority," he admits.

NetJets has not ruled out further airport acquisitions, but Kelly says the company would prefer to work with established airport owners to find a long-term solution to the "access problem".

He says: "We could do a trade-off, for example pay larger landing fees in exchange for guaranteed slots. We will look at each country in which our customers are based and want to fly to and where there is an issue we will try to resolve it."

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