Do Trip Support Services Pay for Themselves?

The idea of paying for a trip support company may seem like an extravagance to some. To those who use them they provide a lifeline, keeping trips on target and unseen difficulties at bay, often paying for themselves. Matt Harris discovers how...

Matt Harris  |  29th February 2024
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    Matt Harris
    Matt Harris

    Matt Harris is Commissioning Editor for AvBuyer. He is an experienced General and Business Aviation...

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    Are business aviation trip support services worth it?


    While flight departments and operators of business jets flying to familiar destinations will usually have their trips fine-tuned to receive the best prices, procedures and efficiency, things can be far more complex for those traveling to different nations, regions and airports.

    Those traveling internationally are more likely to use the services of a trip support service with local expertise of the destination. That expertise might include how to get the best prices on fuel, the quickest ways of obtaining landing and overflight permits, ability to organize suitable security arrangements, and accommodation.

    While these services come at a cost, careful selection of the right provider could potentially yield savings far greater than the outlay for the service, particularly when the passenger’s time is money.

    “The fees for Aviation Services Management’s (ASM’s) trip support, for example, are fairly modest when weighed against the potential cost-savings and improvements in efficiency available to aircraft owners and operators,” argues Avan Merugumala, Ground Operations Manager at ASM.

    With that in mind, following are a few of the key areas by which such services can pay for themselves...

    Savings in Time = Savings in Money

    In Business Aviation, time usually equates to money. “It’s a fundamental aspect of every operation,” Avan says, highlighting how quick and informed decision-making in the face of unexpected events (such as sudden weather changes or operational disruptions) can be the difference between a successful trip and lost time and money.

    Recalling a time when a customer’s flight encountered an unexpected mechanical issue in an unfamiliar region, he shares how the airplane operator used ASM’s local connections to enable swift access to maintenance services and ensure the flight's timely departure.

    “It's in these moments where quick thinking and action truly make a difference, ensuring that an operator’s journey proceeds as planned.”

    Moreover, trip support providers should seek to streamline the flight planning process generally and ensure timely permit arrangements and efficient logistics management. “On-time departures, reduced delays and better aircraft utilization all ensure greater time efficiency, while also minimizing costs related to aircraft idleness,” Avan argues.

    “The slightest delay or logistical error can be far costlier if you’re not using a VIP service,” Gareth Danker, Director of Sales for Euro Jet adds. “Operators of jets costing upward of $50m understand that quality and service are essential” and are prepared to pay for that service, he notes.

    Fuel Savvy Can Represent Substantial Savings

    With fuel accounting for just under half of an aircraft’s operating costs, fuel efficiency is another area where a trip support provider can justify its fee.

    “Tailored flight plans created with local expertise can focus on optimal routes and altitudes, resulting in considerable fuel savings – especially for long-haul flights,” Avan highlights. Indeed, some trip support companies will pass on fuel price discounts to aircraft operators which are leveraged through the support company’s repeat business with its vendors. (The same goes for ground handling, hotels, cars, and more.)

    “Those service providers tend to offer preferential rates to repeat customers like trip support companies,” Akram Abbas, spokesperson for Hadid International Services explains. “These may be passed on to aircraft operators.”

    “Our local team’s relationships and our buying power has enabled us to negotiate pricing with vendors throughout our region,” Danker illustrates. “This provides direct cost savings to our customers.”

    Avoid Unexpected Trip Expenses and Penalties

    Next, there’s the minimized risk of operators running into penalties and unplanned expenses while flying in an unfamiliar part of the world.

    “Non-compliance with less familiar aviation regulations and authorities, or missing required permits can lead to hefty penalties and delays for aircraft owners and operators,” Avan warns. The local knowledge of a trip support provider can help operators ensure they are in full compliance with the regulations in the regions they are overflying or flying to, maintaining smooth and cost-effective operations.

    “Trip support providers can use their knowledge and connections to help operators by conveying the intricacies and implications of international regulations, economic restrictions and cabotage rules as well as offering tax exemption and reclamation programs, where applicable,” Abbas adds.

    “Such penalties can seriously damage the image and the finances of some operators,” he notes, adding that trip support companies can ensure operators stay informed of the latest regulatory developments in the industry to avoid potential penalties.

    Credit Facilities Help Prioritize Spending

    Another financial benefit, according to Abbas, is the credit facility some trip support companies offer operators – a feature that enables them to prioritize their spending and better control and analyze invoices.

    The credit facility is also of essential importance when flying to destinations that do not accept credit cards or do not accept cash payments, or where carrying cash is of certain risk or inconvenience to the crew, he adds. “Trip support companies can cover those payments and bill the operator post-flight.”

    Where Local Knowledge Pays

    Every region has its rules and quirks that international aircraft operators could come unstuck with and, according to Avan, a trip support company worth its salt should make it their business to know these like the back of their hand.

    “Airports, for instance, often have distinct operational constraints such as specific curfew hours, noise limitations, or particular documentation needs,” he says.

    Sometimes, though, the unexpected has nothing to do with the airports or authorities, but civil or political unrest. Avan recounts a time when a flight headed towards a conflict-affected area encountered abrupt airspace closures, owing to geopolitical developments.

    “Leveraging our extensive local knowledge and connections, we swiftly redirected the flight, thereby ensuring that the disruptions to the schedule were kept to an absolute minimum,” he illustrates.

    “First and foremost,” Abbas adds, “geopolitical knowledge – particularly in regions known for instability and frequent political conflict and unrest is vital.”

    He offers the example of upheaval during a political coup in one location where Hadid was able to ensure it was in constant contact with local authorities and partners to get hourly updates on the airport operations and airspace restrictions for overflights.

    Likewise, conflicts have often necessitated drastic changes to already-challenging regulations. Abbas says his company has issued guidance to operators on how to operate in those regions and what they should and should not do there.

    But sometimes it’s simply the joined-up thinking that a trip support provider can offer that really pays – especially where a local trip has multiple destinations.

    “We worked with a customer that was traveling for a business meeting with a combination of top political and business leaders in Prague, Budapest and Bucharest,” Danker recalls. “Euro Jet was handling the flight in all these locations, so our team was communicating with colleagues and updating them on schedule changes and any special requests from the customer.

    “Shortly before the crew closed their jet’s doors in Prague, they realized they needed some additional supplies in Budapest. Our team lead in Prague let the Budapest supervisor know, ensuring that by the time the aircraft landed [in Budapest] an hour or so later, the required supplies were already there.”

    Overall, trip support companies are a one stop shop, offering expertise in flight dispatch and an in-depth knowledge of local regulations. They maintain strong contacts with the respective Civil Aviation Authorities, backed by substantial deposits to ensure readiness for quick turnarounds.

    “This proficiency is particularly vital for managing urgent flights, diversions, or delays,” Avan concludes, “especially when a one-hour delay in departure necessitates updates to slots, on-ground arrangements, and revisions to Flight Information Region (FIR) entry and exit points.”

    Thus, Flight Departments and operators should assess the entirety of an upcoming trip and the potential a trip support company could bring to the table to eliminate areas of misunderstanding, miscommunication or misfortune.

    For operators with a firm grasp of local knowledge, politics, security and regulations, the chances are you’ll be just fine. For everyone else, there’s every chance a trip support company will end up paying for itself in one element of the trip or another.

    More information from:
    Aviation Services Management: www.asm.aero
    Euro Jet: www.eurojet-service.com
    Hadid International Services: https://hadid.aero

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