Last weekend was always going to be one of Europe’s busiest for private jets in a long time – and it certainly proved to be an action-packed few days at PrivateFly.
A number of events, which each generate increased demand for private jets individually, coincided over a UK bank holiday weekend. Then runway closures at Heathrow on Friday morning generated increased demand from stranded airline passengers. All hot on the heels Europe’s major business aviation event, EBACE in Geneva, which finished last Thursday.
The culmination of the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix were taking place on the Cote D’Azur. Further North in Paris, the 2013 Roland Garros French Open tennis began. Across the channel in London, it was the Champions League Final at Wembley stadium. It was also a bank holiday weekend in the UK and the start of school half term holidays, a peak in demand from families who use private jet travel.
So just when it seemed the weekend couldn’t get any busier, an emergency landing for a British Airways aircraft at London Heathrow meant the closure of both its runways and flight cancellations. Airline delays always generate increased demand for private jets and this was certainly no exception. Our team were kept very busy on Friday, arranging flights for a number of stranded airline passengers, both those travelling on business and holidaymakers.
We certainly saw the impact of all this in our Operations department. Our flight search has been showing increased searches for prices for this weekend for months now. Flight bookings also showed a significant increase even before the problems at Heathrow – up 300% on the equivalent weekend last year.
Sourcing available aircraft wasn’t really a problem for the team (PrivateFly’s software gives us live location information) but arranging to park them at busy airports becomes a key consideration at times like this. So that can take a bit of extra juggling.
The Cote D’Azur was particularly busy with Nice airport (open 24 hours and with three dedicated private jet terminals) seeing the majority of the traffic, but Cannes Mandelieu, an exclusive private jet airport, also at full capacity. So with parking at a premium, many jets had to drop and go, using smaller airports such as nearby Toulon, as overflow parking zones.
Busy times indeed – and it was great to see such high demand in the same week as EBACE (see my highlights from EBACE Day 1 and Day 2). I enjoyed taking part as a speaker in the events program this year – a panel discussion about new technology in business aviation, which provoked a lot of very interesting debate. More to follow on that (it’s been a bit busy you see…).