- 11 Jul 2023
- Felipe Reisch
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
Felipe Reisch interviewed industry experts to understand what the local trip support market has to offer crews, operators, and aircraft owners when flying privately in Africa…Back to Articles
Trip support plays a key role in any private aviation operation traveling into an unfamiliar region or country. Entire teams dedicate themselves to providing a wide array of services, from flight permissions to fuel planning, ground handling, catering, chauffer and hotel services, and even specialized security arrangements for the aircraft and its occupants.
The main clients of UAS Africa are business jet owners/operators, charter operators, heads of state, and facilitating Royal flights into the region, according to a company spokesperson. Cargo and medical evacuation providers also play a strong role.
With a heavy focus on delivering trip support solutions for crews, Icarus Jet says that its main services that are requested are flight planning and coordination, fuel coordination, hotel arrangements, and ground transportation.
Yet not everything is a walk in the park, according to Kevin Singh, President of Icarus Jet. “Fuel availability may sometimes be a concern due to fuel limitations,” he explains. “Multiple countries in Africa [currently have] huge safety issues, and therefore risk assessment is also part of the services that we actively provide in the region.”
Along similar lines, receiving short notice requests from an operator or crew often puts the trip support company in an uncomfortable position, according to Philip Eyre, Director of Astra Aviation, due to there being a specific amount of time established by each local aviation authority to approve operations.
“Getting accurate quotes from suppliers can also be challenging, as well as poor communications from suppliers and short working hours of some Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs),” he adds. “Whilst some CAAs are difficult, we work with many local partners who provide a fast and efficient service.”
For UAS Africa, it is the poor endowment of ground support equipment that is one of the major challenges to smooth operations. “Some crucial ground handling equipment such as high loaders, Ground Power Units and towbars are either not available or have not been upgraded and are in poor condition at many airports,” a spokesperson for the company elaborates.
"This makes it necessary to improvise. Excessive bureaucracy or poor administration in permit issuance is a challenge in a few countries, and this can also affect a whole operational cycle.”
The various challenges and difficulties combine to highlight why use of a trip support provider in the region can be a worthwhile exercise.
“In our common experience, flight approvals (overflights and landing permits) are often the most challenging request because of the unique requirements of private operators whose itineraries can be unpredictable, and they can be requested at odd times (after hours, and at weekends) which may not align with the work schedule of the authorities or agencies providing the approvals,” shares UAS Africa’s spokesperson.
Overall, what constitutes a challenge in one country may not apply to another, which is exactly the case with flight approvals, as pointed out by Singh.
“The flight approval will be a very big aspect as we must discuss the safety and security concerns in some locations in Africa that we are going to fly to. Not to mention, the required additional armed security on the ground for the aircraft, and secure transportation of the VIPs and crew in some cases.
“Flight approvals can be obtained depending on the urgency,” Singh adds. “To be on the safe side usually one week is needed, although some permits can be obtained in three hours – for example, for a landing permit in Egypt.”
Ultimately, trip support providers act as an extension of the client’s flight department to provide much needed support and services in areas where the client would have problems operating without local knowledge and assistance.
Trip support providers often have regional aviation experts located at key travel hubs that understand the local regulations and policies as well as any cultural sensitivities. This allows them to guide customers and advocate for their interests on the ground.
“[Providers] offer up-to-the-minute, accurate, and realistic information on conditions at the destination before crew arrival, best preparing them physically and psychologically,” the UAS Africa spokesperson summarized.
According to Singh, the real added value of a trip support company is the capability to adapt to the client’s needs.
“The safety and security risk assessment, the comfort and smoothness of the flight coordination, the procedure upon arrival at the destination, the basic laws and regulations that you may need to follow, the visa requirements, the Covid requirements, and the parking slot of the aircraft are part of the full package,” says Singh.
Finally, while challenges remain in the continent for trip support providers and their stakeholders, the opportunities for those trip support companies to offer a personalized service remain high in Africa due to an generally underserved market.