Industry Innovators Debate Business Aviation’s Future in First-Ever Newsmakers Panel
Oct. 11, 2021
The inaugural NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) “Newsmakers” luncheon Monday featured three respected business aviation visionaries and entrepreneurs who shared their forecasts on the industry’s post-COVID future – and where they believe business aviation will be in 20 years.
While all were bullish on the industry’s continued growth, panelists George Antoniadis, Kenny Dichter and Kenn Ricci expressed varying degrees of optimism for the industry’s ability to sustain and even exceed its current growth rate of 5-7% , fueled by ongoing demand in the COVID environment.
Dichter, the founder and CEO of Wheels Up, said he expects on-demand business aircraft options that exceed current fractional and jet card programs – to the point it will eventually be as “easy to get an airplane as it [is] to order a pizza.” That easier access will draw in the “90%” of potential customers who still haven’t explored private aircraft travel, he said.
“I don’t share that level of optimism,” countered PlaneSense Founder and CEO Antoniadis. “I agree that there are different methods of delivery and you are doing a very good job with that. But I also think that the backbone of what we do is… call it the traditional aviation economy.”
Ricci, founder and principal of Directional Aviation Capital, said constraints on available aircraft are a hindering factor. “We’ve worked on creating demand, and congratulations, we finally got there,” he said. “Now, we’re really going to have to be innovative on the supply side.”
When prompted by moderator Miles O’Brien to predict where business aviation will be in 2041, Ricci said he foresees “a rapidly consolidating market” with four major providers of fractional and charter aircraft options.
Dichter’s take? “We have some constraints,” he said. “We need to figure out infrastructure, pilots and all the other things there – but I have no doubt in my mind this will be much, much bigger.”
Antoniadis said he’ll be satisfied with far more measured growth, acknowledging that near-future options such as advanced air mobility and other new technologies could draw in new customer markets.
“When we went from 5-7% it was an explosion for us,” he said. “I’ll be happy even if we double the number we have now at that time.
“But if we broaden the delivery mechanisms as Kenny talks about, then that will grow along with the existing business models.”
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