February 1, 2011

Members trust NBAA to advocate on their behalf in Washington, DC, but the Association works beyond Capitol Hill to further business aviation, including by building partnerships within the travel industry. In the last two years, NBAA’s Mike Nichols, vice president, operations, education & economics, has fostered a key partnership with the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) by becoming a member a serving on NBTA’s Aviation Committee.

Like NBAA, NBTA is a Washington, DC-based association. Its members are travel managers for companies across the U.S. – in-house experts who understand the travel needs of all their companies’ employees and negotiate discounts with airlines, rental car companies and other travel providers.

“These travel managers have deep travel industry expertise and they’re very effective negotiators who save their companies a lot of money,” said Nichols. “But they don’t have a lot of experience with business aviation, which is where NBAA can help.”

Nichols joined the NBTA Aviation Committee in October 2009, when he participated in developing an NBTA white paper, “General Aviation Options for Business,” to help travel managers understand the various alternatives to relying solely on airline travel, including aircraft charter, fractional ownership and full ownership. Nichols also connected NBTA with NBAA’s Corporate Shuttle Work Group to produce a resource on the business aviation solutions for companies that need to regularly move employees between two locations, for example between a plant and a corporate headquarters.

“If you view a flight department manager’s role as not just flying an airplane but rather getting employees and customers where they need to be as efficiently as possible, then corporate travel managers have the same job,” said Nichols. “So it makes sense for NBAA to offer them our resources and expertise.”

In the coming year, Nichols and the NBTA Aviation Committee plan to write a follow-up white paper, “When Might Business Aviation Be the Right Tool for a Mission?”, and work to expand NBTA’s Airline Request for Proposals (RFP) template to include on-demand charter options in addition to scheduled airline service. In 2005, Nichols helped write the NBAA Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide, which he hopes will be helpful to corporate travel managers as they consider on-demand charter for their employees’ travel needs.

“Choosing a charter provider is completely different than choosing an airline,” said Nichols. “With business aviation, you’re not just comparing price, you’re determining what the most effective and efficient travel option is for the mission and getting the best price for that option.”

To help corporate travel managers evaluate different business aviation options, Nichols committed to share the NBAA studies conducted by NEXA Advisors, “Business Aviation: An Enterprise Value Perspective,” at the next Aviation Committee meeting, delivering the No Plane No Gain message that a business aircraft is a sign of a well-managed company.

“NBAA Member Companies purchase more than $12 billion in airline tickets each year,” said Nichols. “But airlines don’t go every place companies need to go and they can’t make multiple stops and get you back in a single day. For those situations, and for many others, business aviation is a tool that travel managers should have at their disposal.”

As Nichols and other NBAA leaders partner with NBTA in Washington, DC, he encouraged flight department managers to develop closer relationships with the corporate travel managers in their companies.

“The missions of our two associations and the people in our industry are very neatly aligned,” said Nichols. “We’ve established a great partnership with NBTA and going forward we’ll continue working together toward the same goals.”