‘There has never been so much flying with a private jet’

No queues at the security checkpoint, no angry pilots and hardly any risk of canceled flights: Those who can afford it more often choose a trip with a private jet. ‘The market is under steam.’

‘May I call you back in an hour? I still have a few things to fix before a plane needs to take off urgently. ‘ Dominiek Deman’s response makes it clear that it’s all hands on deck at Luxaviation’s commercial aviation group, which deploys private jets from Brussels and Wevelgem.

The use of private jets is flourishing, according to a study by De Tijd. “Despite difficult factors such as energy prices and the looming recession, interest is very high,” said Ward Bonduel of the United States, where Luxaviation’s CEO is currently receiving the keys to a brand new device.

“The market is under steam. There has never been so much private flying. Applications are flowing in large numbers in our commercial department ‘, says Kristiaan Cloots. The marketing director of Antwerp Flying Group saw the number of flight hours increase by 15 percent in 2021 compared to 2019. “We expect another 7 to 8 percent this year.”

The essence

  • The use of private jets in our country is booming, according to a survey by De Tijd among Belgian aviation groups.
  • Since the corona crisis, several entrepreneurs have relied on a private jet. The (shared) purchase of a device is also increasing.
  • Players are getting ready for a busy summer as commercial aviation is plagued by strikes and staff shortages.

The cause is related to the corona crisis. After the aviation sector came to a standstill during the outbreak of the pandemic, the private aviation market managed to be the first to crawl out of the corona valley. ‘Over the past few summers we have seen a huge boom among people who would like to go on holiday without the risk of corona infection. They obviously have a taste for it. Logical too, because it’s one dependence: if you do it once, you’ll come back, ”says Thomas van Meerbeeck of The Aviation Factory, which operates up to twelve flights on busy days.

© Wouter Van Vooren

There are several ways to fly privately. In addition to the extremes – you charter an individual flight or you buy a plane – there are two hybrids. »There are, for example, flight tickets where you get a number of flight hours for a certain amount. Or you own fractional ownership: you buy a unit with four or six people, which we manage, ‘says Cloots.

The latter is a growing segment according to Luxaviation. “We have recently noticed that more people dare to invest in aircraft. In the coming months, we will add three split jets to our fleet of 25 aircraft, “Bonduel said.” This significant expansion required us to hire additional pilots and expand our operational teams. “

It’s not cheap. At The Flying Group, a private jet costs 3,000 to 4,000 euros an hour. ‘For a one-way flight to Ibiza with six people, you have to quickly count on 15,000 euros,’ says Van Meerbeeck, whose The Aviation Factory is heading for an annual turnover of 40 million euros. Thanks to the boom, the counter stands at 25 million euros, while in 2021 the aviation group put about the same amount (24 million) in the books. Market leader Luxaviation aims for 60 million euros, broadly in line with revenue in 2019.

The trend is broader than Belgium. Data from the US researcher ISS Corporate Solutions, reported by the British business newspaper Financial Times, shows that the largest 500 US companies in 2021 spent a total of $ 33.8 million on private flights for top executives. This is an increase of 35 percent, to the highest level of consumption since 2012. An average of $ 170,660 was spent per capita. CEO, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($ 1.6 million) and Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet ($ 1.1 million). ) as outliers.

Leisure time may be increasing, but business travel is also still the core business for airlines in our country. ‘Flexibility is the key word. A West Flemish entrepreneur can easily leave Wevelgem. To leave in the morning, visit a foreign factory during the day and sleep in his own bed at night, ”says Bonduel. “More and more companies are putting their top people on private flights because of the time savings,” says Cloots.

© Wouter Van Vooren

All Belgian players are preparing for a busy summer. The prediction that the social turbulence – strikes leading to long waits or cancellations – will continue at the major airports makes them rub their hands. “We do not have the problems of the big players. All the stories of standing in line for hours drive extra customers in our direction,” says Luxaviation. “The pictures of Schiphol or Zaventem are an extra argument for taking a private plane. We are ready. “Last year was our best year ever. Now we are determined to do even better,” said Van Meerbeeck.

Private aviation in Belgium

  • Expected turnover: 60 million euros (2022).
  • Fleet: 25 aircraft.
  • Owner: Luxembourg entrepreneur Patrick Hansen and Chinese CMIG.
  • Turnover: 110 million (2021).
  • Fleet: 45 aircraft.
  • Owner: Entrepreneur Bernard Van Milders.
  • Expected turnover: 40 million euros (2022).
  • Fleet: 0 (acts as a broker for private flights).
  • Owner: entrepreneur Carl Legein.
  • Turnover: 65 million euros (2021).
  • Fleet: 45 aircraft.
  • Owner: Entrepreneur Philippe Bodson.

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