EBACE Interview: Charlotte Pedersen on the VIP market and working together
Luxaviation is among of the world’s largest VIP and VVIP aircraft-operating and servicing companies. It provides charter, sales, management to business jet customers around the world. In February 2016, the company setup a helicopter division, which has since grown, and grown.
Not content to rest on its laurels as the first VIP helicopter-management-company. In the past year, the helicopter division has expanded out of its VVIP focus to serve a variety of private and business clients around the world.
Heading up the company is former COO of Luxaviation Group Charlotte Pederen. Ms Pedersen has more than 25 years of experience in the aviation field and was the first woman to enter into the military pilot program for the Danish Air Force in 1989 – training to operate search-and-rescue missions on a S-61.
Helicopter Investor met with Ms Pedersen at EBACE earlier this month to talk about the VIP market, the VVIP market and how the business helicopter and jet markets should be working together to deliver the best-possible experiences to the customer.
How is business?
CP: “I feel that the Interest in helicopters in general is growing and the movement we are seeing in the VVIP market is especially promising.
“A lot of people want helicopters, but they are not entirely sure how to purchase and use them effectively to ensure a safe operation – this is where we come in. We are optimistic in these new opportunities and requests we are receiving in 2018. We are now being approached by people from the other side of the world, in areas like the US and Asia, and we are following up on these requests.
“Whilst we are a global group, this is still very positive because we do not have a presence in every area, and these areas are now looking to Europe and realising we are doing a very good job in the VIP and VVIP market.”
How hopeful are you about 2018?
“CP: We are very hopeful, but we really need to get the full message to the world out there about what we are doing. The helicopter market has been dominated by oil and gas, EMS, utilities etc, and they have established clients that people know. With us we have private individuals in Sweden, England and so on, so there has not been much news out there and, where there is, its generally with local news sources reporting on local companies.
“I think this approach is changing, the business-aviation industry is starting to realise that helicopters are a perfectly complementary service to jets. Jets will take you from airport A to airport B and helicopters will take you to the final private destination. At Luxaviation, the helicopter and jet sides of the company are working together to show how the two aircraft complement each other.
“In my line of work, I might sell a jet and in the jet side, they might sell a helicopter. We also make clients aware there are other options, but we don’t view them as competition, we work in the service of the customer.”
Where are your customers coming from?
CP: “It depends on what segment you are looking at, the VVIP or VIP helicopter. It is a different clientele for both. Also, it depends what is flying in the regions. If you head to London, most of the helicopters are VVIP and if you go to Hawaii it is VIP. It depends on the region and what is normal, in São Paulo for example a helicopter is just a taxi. The VVIP has a similar interior to a limousine or a business jet.”
What models are selling best in either market?
CP: “In the VVIP area, it is Airbus AC135 and up, the Bell 429 and up, and the AW109, AW139 and AW169 and for Sikorsky it is the S76. The other OEMs are offering light-twin options but these I’ve mentioned are the brands and models that are selling.
“In terms of size, the light twin is by far the most popular and the medium twin is also popular. Again, it depends on what they are needed for. We talk to clients and ask them what they are going to use the aircraft for. However, when they actually get one, they realise they can do so much more with it. In the VVIP market, people want to use it to fly to their jet quickly. But next thing they know they have a yacht and now they have a way of getting out to their yacht quickly, maybe the children get married and you want to fly everyone out to you etc.
“It is important for us that if the client has a wish for their helicopter, we talk to them and we bring up the other possibilities they can use it for as well as the limitations. Helicopters cannot do everything, just because one can take you from place to place it does not mean its legal to land everywhere. Therefore, it is important to talk through this with clients.
“Also, it depends on which region they will be flying it in, it might be extreme hot or cold areas where you will have different regulations about what equipment you need to have on board. This equipment will make the helicopter heavier, so it can carry fewer passengers. Maybe the cargo door will not be able to fit your luggage, maybe you are older and need something without steps, there is a lot to consider.”
So do you consider the VVIP market just as tailored to the customer as the business-jet market?
CP: “Absolutely. We are a professional and technical company, but the most important part is customer facing. It is our job to talk to the customers and tailor the product to their needs. You do not want a customer buying something that will not be used. You need to explain to them. It is not our task to sell a specific machine, but it is our job to make sure the client is happy.”
You launched almost two years ago, how do you think you have done?
CP: “I am one big smile every single day. It is a 24/7 job but there are so many new projects coming in that it keeps it interesting. We initially started as just VVIP, but we have expanded beyond what we originally thought.
“Luxaviation is a large group with more than 1,700 employees, most of whom have been in aviation for years. We have experts in every area out there. If I go out and get a request from a client to manage a helicopter in Geneva, for maintenance and a place to land, we can provide it. It’s the whole operation, working with local regulations, making sure they can service their aircraft locally etc — not just selling the aircraft.
“We are expanding the entire time.”
Is there any particular region that is looking to grow for VIP or VVIP over the next few years?
CP: “In our market, it really just depends on the growth in economy. The Asian region is one of the markets we are looking at but its not the only market opening up to private aviation.
“Individuals, governments and organisations are popping up all over the place that can now make use of a helicopter or jet and have the finances to make the purchase.
“In terms of specific growth, we are looking at India, China, Thailand and Malaysia as they are making aerospace regulations more accommodating for private aircraft owners. South America and Middle East are also looking very promising for us.”