Oct. 27, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities and challenges for business aviation. While lockdowns and travel restrictions increased reliance on virtual meetings and technology, more people and organizations learned the value of business aviation. Charter and fractional sales are at historic highs, with business jet flights exceeding 300,000 in July – the busiest month ever, according to Argus International, a figure that reflects the increasing reliance on business aviation among both long-time and new users.
“Our business aviation community is seeing a new, fresh customer base that has come to find out that flying a business aircraft is productive, efficient and provides a quality of life and safety of flight that our commercial aviation colleagues do not or are not very likely to offer in the future,” said David Salvador, aftermarket channel vice president of Gogo Business Aviation.
“It’s easy to strike up a conversation about aviation. Everyone wants to hear about flying, airplanes and new technologies like advanced air mobility, so it’s easy to be an ambassador for our industry.”
Marj Rose Local and Regional Groups Committee Chair, NBAA
People who fly on business aircraft – or provide the array of related support services – know the benefits and inherent value of business aviation. Many advocates say it is incumbent on each industry professional to promote business aviation and communicate its benefits.
But what’s the best way to explain the strategic value of business aviation to potential users; local, regional, state and national policymakers; the general public and even, when needed, to people within organizations that use business aviation but need to justify the choice?
“We all represent the industry,” said Marj Rose, a business aviation marketing and communications specialist and NBAA’s Local and Regional Groups Committee chair, who says you never know when a small comment or short discussion can make a big a difference. “It’s easy to strike up a conversation about aviation. Everyone wants to hear about flying, airplanes and new technologies like advanced air mobility, so it’s easy to be an ambassador for our industry.”
Know the Numbers
When an opportunity comes to talk about business aviation or correct a misconception about the industry, be prepared with some impactful data. Business aviation creates jobs, provides companies with flexibility and access to small communities and drives a significant portion of the economy in the U.S.
For example, the business aviation industry is a jobs creator, supporting more than a million people across the country, helping to generate $219 billion in economic activity each year. And the job opportunities aren’t just for pilots and maintenance technicians; the industry employs numerous well-paid professionals that support flight operations, from schedulers/dispatchers, flight attendants and flight instructors, to sales and marketing professionals and managers.
Rose also likes to point out that business aviation is the most efficient mode of travel because:
- About 5,000 U.S. airports are available to business aircraft, versus the 500 used by airlines.
- Some 80% of business airplane flights provide access to small towns and communities.
- More than 31% of flights conducted by business aircraft pilots in the previous year were to destinations that have never had commercial air service, according to a 2018 Harris Poll survey.
- Almost 40% of business aviation missions involve multiple destinations.
In fact, a business aircraft is the ultimate time machine. A multiple destination trip, especially to small or remote communities, would mean a multi-day commitment using traditional airline service, including several nights in hotels and long drives in rental cars. Instead, business aircraft transport users directly to their destinations. And business aviation isn’t just the tool of C-suite executives. Over 70% of passengers aboard business airplanes are non-executive employees.
Become familiar with the data relevant to your area. Many states or regions publish economic impact studies regarding aviation. For example:
- California’s Van Nuys Airport, one of the nation’s busiest business aviation airports, is responsible for creating more than 10,000 jobs, $674.6 million in labor income and $2 billion in output (business revenue).
- New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, one of the leading East Coast business aviation destinations, supports 15,000 jobs and supports more than $2 billion in annual sales activity.
- Alaska relies on general aviation and 400 public-use airports to connect the 82% of communities that are not accessible via highways. In addition, aviation contributes 35,000 jobs and $3.8 billion to the state’s economy.
- Some 39,000 jobs in the state of Kansas are tied to general aviation.
NBAA Business Aviation Fact Book
Grounded in data from the FAA, state economic studies, NASA and industry surveys, the Business Aviation Fact Book covers the companies of all sizes using business aircraft, and the one million people employed across the industry.
No Plane No Gain
A joint undertaking of the NBAA and General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the No Plane NO Gain campaign is designed to educate the public on the importance of business aviation to our country and its communities, companies and citizens. The No Plane No Gain website includes shareable infographics, presentations and advocacy resources.
Alliance for Aviation Across America
Formed in 2007, the Alliance for Aviation Across America is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of over 6,300 individuals, businesses, agricultural groups, FBOs, small airports, elected officials, charitable organizations, and leading business and aviation groups The alliance website includes state-by-state economic impact data to demonstrate the value of general aviation and local airports, particularly for rural communities.
Be Conversational, Tell the Whole Story
At your next community or social event, be ready to answer the inevitable question, “So what do you do for a living?” For that matter, anticipate a question that could be posed at an upcoming family gathering: “So what do you actually do for a living? Something with planes, right?”
How do you respond to make the greatest positive impact? Business aviation advocates suggest being conversational and be careful not to use too many acronyms or technical aviation terms.
“There’s still a mystique to what we do in business aviation”, said Jenny Showalter, a business aviation recruiter and career coach, “and the more you can put it into everyday terms, the better your explanation will hit home.”
“It’s easy to assume what business aviation does, but assumptions usually only hit the tip of the iceberg,” Showalter added. “There’s much more to it than what most people think.”
“It’s easy to assume what business aviation does, but assumptions usually only hit the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more to it than what most people think.”
Jenny Showalter Business Aviation Recruiter and Career Coach
Make sure that people understand that business aviation isn’t about high-powered elites. Small businesses are some of the most common users of business aviation. In fact, the vast majority of organizations that use business aviation are small- to mid-size businesses or other entities, including nonprofit organizations. Fifty seven percent of companies using business aviation have fewer than 500 employees.
Don’t forget to note that business aviation organizations often are involved in humanitarian efforts, providing rapid responses to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Approximately 15,000 business aircraft flights per year are for humanitarian reasons. Also mention that during the pandemic, business aircraft were used for repatriation flights, particularly for sick individuals, and to transport medical personnel and supplies.
Finally, engage in local, regional and state aviation and community groups. Pay attention to aviation-related issues and be prepared to share your perspective as an industry representative. Rose notes that there are approximately 60 active regional aviation groups around the country, many working to address workforce development challenges. These groups often engage with middle school and high school students. Whether students choose an aviation career or not, they can become more educated about business aviation if aviation professionals share the good news about the industry.
Technology Won’t Supplant Business Travel
Some organizations, even those with business aircraft, believe that virtual meetings and remote work will replace the need for most business travel, but experts believe time will show that to be an incorrect assumption.
“Technology made us more productive during COVID-19, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction,” said Rose. “There’s a significant return on investment from on-site visits, not only with prospective clients, but also with existing customers. The value of seeing your customers and building on that rapport is so important to the long-term loyalty that we are all seeking. Business aviation provides a safe and reliable option for transportation to begin or continue those valuable customer relationships.”
Since the pandemic began, health and personal safety have become top priorities, and business aviation has excelled at addressing these issues head-first, Showalter said.
“We can never replace eye contact or a handshake,” said Showalter. “The pandemic proved some work can be done remotely, but we cannot replace that human connection or underestimate the value of personal relationships.”
Business aviation has the opportunity to continue to attract and retain new users, even though increased reliance on videoconferencing and other communications technologies will decrease the demand for business travel somewhat. Be prepared and willing to share the strategic value of business aviation with your community, prospective users and your own passengers and clients.
“Our industry is anchored on fostering relationships with integrity and doing business with people we trust. We need to get back to that,” said Salvador. “Business aviation delivers an ROI like no other.”