Possibly the world’s most recognized advocate, if not expert on the value of Business Aviation,... Read More
In some circles the words “Business Aviation” prompt thoughts of privilege and excess. Media loves to bash those “fat cats” who fly on corporate jets, even though the majority of passengers on business aircraft are middle managers or technical experts doing yeomen duty for the company.
Perhaps a fear of criticism combined with a lack of knowledge causes Board members to dismiss this form of transportation. Much evidence exists, however, that business aircraft are unique tools that enhance productivity of a company’s two most important assets—people and time. Thus the question that media and shareholders should ask is “why not Business Aviation?”
Necessity of Air Travel
Obviously companies have significant needs to travel, and today’s businesses rely on the ability of employees to reach clients and business partners quickly and safely. Air travel satisfies that need.
Not so obvious is recognition that not all air travel need be via scheduled airlines, particularly in today’s environment where air carriers focus their services between a limited number of very large hubs. Furthermore, with air carriers reducing the number of aircraft serving city pairs, thereby filling more seats, the character of air travel has changed in a way that does not favor a suitable working environment for the business traveler.
Consider, for example, a recent article entitled “A Recipe for Air Rage” by Stephanie Rosenbloom in the Travel Section of the New York Times’ Sunday edition recently. Ms. Rosenbloom describes the environmental pressures placed on airline passengers as air carriers have implemented policies designed to maximize load factor—the percentage of filled seats divided by available seats, a number that often reaches 100.
She noted that being confined in a packed airliner after lingering at the departure gate creates an environment that is stressful and fatiguing. Nor did she overlook the “cram your carry-on into the overhead” challenge. With airlines charging for baggage, more passengers are boarding with backpacks or roller bags stuffed to the seams. Such boarding situations certainly are not conducive to a productive state of mind.
Ms. Rosenbloom quoted a University of Hawaii professor of psychology who researches road and air rage. “When you crowd people together, there is a point at which they are no longer able to function appropriately,” stated Leon James. Crowding, he observed, leads to feelings of alienation, cynicism and anonymity and a “breakdown of ordinary social inhibitions,” such as controlling explosive behavior. Service changes implemented by airlines have reinforced a hostile climate, according to Professor James.
Companies need their employees to be in top form when they meet clients. Travel conditions that compromise a person’s ability to think constructively and productively are counterproductive.
Aside from any hostility or angst generated from the boarding experience, neither first nor business class seating is sufficient to assure a favorable environment for working, even for the most composed executive. Consider industrial security: The CEO of a leading employer in a small Midwestern city instructed his employees not to read company documents or discuss business when departing from or returning to the local airport. His reasoning, he told me, was that whatever was discussed or observed would compromise the firm’s competitiveness.
Travel via business aircraft allows passengers to determine their own schedule and select airports that are closer to their points of departure and ultimate destinations, thereby significantly reducing the time spent traveling. The USA, for example, has 10 times the number of locations with airports suitable for business aircraft than there are cities with any form of scheduled airline service. When business-friendly schedules are considered, business aircraft can access about 100 times more locations than can scheduled air carriers.
While not exactly the same ratio between locations suitable to business aircraft and airlines exists throughout the world, the situation is similar: business aircraft provide access to many more locations than do scheduled air carriers.
Business aircraft are offices that move. Increasingly so, they are fitted with the wonders of modern connectivity so that the business traveler has nearly the same level of communications with clients and colleagues that he or she has from office or home. Also, passengers have the environment that is conducive to productivity. No one wants to be in the presence of colleagues wasting time reading a trashy ‘potboiler’.
As for air rage, the likelihood of passengers losing their cool on a business aircraft, especially in the midst of colleagues, is very low, even in the relatively confined space of some smaller jets.
Business Aviation comes in many forms, ranging from charter - for the occasional trip - to ownership of an aircraft for the company’s exclusive use. Many travel options exist along the spectrum of Business Aviation services. The enlightened Director is aware of those options and the benefits they offer the corporation.
Directors must not ignore the attributes of business aircraft. In fact, use of Business Aviation is the sign of a well-managed company.