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Air Partner organises airliner, private jet and urgent freight charters

Air Partner plc celebrates its 50th anniversary

Air Partner plc celebrates its 50th anniversary this month. From humble beginnings in 1961 when it started out as an air training school, Air Partner (formerly Air London) now has group sales of over £200 million, a strong international client base and operates from 20 offices worldwide.

Today, Air Partner organises airliner, private jet and urgent freight charters for industry, commerce, governments and individuals. Clients include six of the G8 group of governments, the UN, EU, NATO, leading NGOs such as the Red Cross and royal families – Air Partner is the only aviation company to hold a Royal Warrant from HM Queen Elizabeth II (as Supplier of Aircraft Charter).

The company’s shares were first listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1989 and as it approaches its sixth decade, it is mapping out further expansion plans which will see it grow its existing global office network, looking to move into new emerging markets – such as China and South America. It also plans to extend its existing product offering across its 20 offices and increase its presence in higher growth markets like Russia. Also high on the agenda is a commitment to embrace new technologies and engage with clients and potential customers to provide a better and more bespoke service.

“We respect our competition. We may be one of the biggest charter companies in the world today, but we cannot be complacent,” CEO Mark Briffa says. “While service and prestige have always been important, price is also a key influence in our business as buyers have become more educated and more sophisticated in their use of private aviation. The Internet has given passengers much more control.”

One of Air Partner’s key differentiators, developed through its 50 years of experience, is the ability to handle even the most complex of charters. Moving oil company executives to important meetings in Azerbaijan, a premiership footballer to play a match in deepest Russia, or 100 tonnes of mobile phones urgently needing despatch from Hong Kong to Rio, these are day-to-day jobs for the 24/7 team.  Air Partner is highly experienced at flying into remote and hostile areas and has organised some of the most complicated civil aviation operations of the last few years.

Air Partner’s recent work responding to natural disasters and political unrest – repatriating people from troubled areas, flying emergency supplies to countries crippled by earthquakes and flooding – has been a major focus throughout the past six months. During the period, Air Partner moved more than 12,000 people and over 445 tonnes of relief aid from or into Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, New Zealand and Japan. 

Briffa attributes much of Air Partner’s success to its 200-strong workforce. “Talented individuals, young and old, working as one team – these experienced individuals are at the forefront of our business.” Members of the worldwide Air Partner team speak 31 languages between them – some are fluent in as many as four or five. Combined, Air Partner team members have spent more than 1,000 years working for the company. Briffa credits Air Partner’s longevity to its dedicated personnel, the ability to adapt to market needs, a solid financial base and the company’s global recognition for its high standards of service.

Briffa, who is marking 15 years with the company this year and has over 20 years’ experience arranging charter flights, cites his own ‘highlights’. These include Air Partner’s move into freight charters, fuel reselling and emergency evacuation planning plus and the winning in 2004, and subsequent retention last December, of the Royal Warrant.

A further milestone was the creation of Air Partner’s pre-paid JetCard programme for clients chartering private jets on a regular basis. The Air Partner JetCard is the most flexible and transparent in the industry and additional enhancements are underway to make it even more attractive alongside ad hoc charter rates. Briffa comments: “The business aviation market has never seen such a wide variety of executive jets available for charter (Air Partner has six categories on its Jet Card). The range is healthy and diverse and there is good news that after two years in the doldrums, the private jet market is steadily moving again.” 

Pleasing for Briffa, who was promoted to CEO in March 2010 from Chief Operations Officer, is the company’s steadily improved profitability following its decision to focus on its core charter broking activity. Since his appointment, the company’s profitability has been improving and annual results will be announced in October. At the half year stage to 31 January 2011 Group sales were up 36 per cent year-on-year to £130.9 million.

Coinciding with its 50th birthday, Air Partner is moving its UK headquarters to larger premises at City Place alongside London Gatwick Airport next month (July). The building is opposite The Beehive, Gatwick’s original terminal building, where the company began trading 50 years ago and has remained within 1km ever since. The new address provides Air Partner with 2,000 sq ft of additional space enabling the company to have a dedicated area for its in-house training facility.

From its humble origins at Gatwick, Air Partner has grown to be one of the largest air charter companies in the world. The company now flies over 15,000 flights per year, flying the flag across its 20 offices, in 16 countries spanning three continents. Its prestigious client base includes six of the G8 governments, 12 heads of state, White House contracts, and members of royalty.

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