Fast, comfortable, convenient and secluded – it’s easy to see the appeal of private helicopter travel. But investment in such services can fluctuate: as a sector, the health of private and business aviation (PBA) tends to mirror that of the global economy. Now, as the effects of the previous decade’s financial crisis continue to diminish, things are looking up.
“It’s quite simple, really: when the economy is going well and businesses are growing, there is more scope to invest in private and business aviation,” says Nitin Sareen, Head of Marketing at Airbus Corporate Helicopters. “Ultimately, it’s all about convenience and saving time.”
How those time savings are realised can vary. One of the principle uses of helicopters in PBA is for short urban commutes, hopping over traffic-snarled streets from meeting to meeting. Recreational use is also important: with ultra-high net worth individuals often favouring remote locations to live and relax, helicopter can be the ideal – and sometimes only – way to travel point to point from mountain chalets, quiet islands or mega-yachts.
Driving demand with bespoke service
After the success of its Airbus Corporate Jets brand, Airbus launched Airbus Corporate Helicopters (ACH) in May 2017 with the aim of capitalising on the global economic upturn and offering a similar level of bespoke service to further drive demand.
Whether for private owners or large corporations, ACH offers its customers fully tailored interiors – including special collaborations with Hermès and Mercedes-Benz – as well as global support and full service and maintenance. That Airbus is the only OEM offering a dedicated platform for PBA is a major differentiator.
“ACH has made an excellent start since our global launch and is generating great enthusiasm in the private and business aviation community, increasing its market share steadily,” says Frederic Lemos, Head of ACH.
Traditional markets like Europe, North America and Latin America will continue to be of significant size and ACH aims to maintain leadership there. But emerging markets like South Asia Pacific, China and India will provide a fresh impetus for growth.
Helicopters for every need
In addition to the high levels of personalised service, a key factor in the success of ACH is the versatility offered by its helicopters.
Luxaviation Helicopters, a leading PBA operating and servicing company, currently has a fleet of 15 Airbus rotorcraft via ACH. CEO Charlotte Pedersen says the ACH145 has established itself as the preferred helicopter for yacht operations thanks to its blend of compact footprint and sophisticated comfort. “The more nimble ACH125 also covers a lot of clients’ needs, from quick city commutes to heliskiing.”
A significant new addition to the ACH portfolio will start its first deliveries later this year. “The entry of the ACH160 is a big deal,” says Sareen. “In its first year of commercial availability, more than half of the orders have been for the PBA sector.”
And Pedersen agrees. “We’re very excited about the ACH160 and we already have clients waiting for them. As the first truly modern helicopter in the VVIP sector, it’s going to be a real game-changer.”
Unique in the industry
With ACH now sitting alongside Airbus Corporate Jets, the two sister brands are in the rare position of being able to offer a combined service covering the full PBA spectrum. “All our corporate jets customers can be corporate helicopter customers and vice versa,” Sareen says. “That gives us an excellent value proposition”
Charlotte Pedersen agrees: “For us, it’s the perfect solution and offers the same customer experience. This is totally unique in the industry.”
Further growth expected
Looking ahead, numerous factors look set to spur further growth in the PBA sector. Pedersen thinks an increased focus on urban air mobility could help. “It draws attention to how flying vehicles accentuate convenience and could raise attention to private aviation in general.”
Sareen expects favourable economic conditions to continue to drive investment across the industry. “We’ll see developments in urban infrastructure such as helipads and heliports, improved rotorcraft performance and greater affordability, all of which will encourage private helicopter travel.”