I don’t make $3 million a year. I’m nowhere close. In fact, the very idea of it makes me feel faint and has me seeing visions of Nordstrom’s. Regardless, we often fly passengers who do make that kind of money. As an individual, I cannot negatively judge the expedience of using private aviation based on my own personal income and monetary touchstones. Neither can anyone else outside that economic peer group.
I recently spoke with a client who, until the media hung a target on general aviation, was the scheduler for a corporate flight department. The company let go of their pilots, sold their aircraft at a huge loss and now has their executives traveling on scheduled airlines. Those travelers are recording about a 25% cancellation in their flights. Twenty. Five. Percent. And the flights aren’t cancelling before the business man leaves his home airport where he can just return to the office to put in a productive day. They are cancelling when the executive is already on the road. He’s sitting in Denver or Albuquerque or Kelowna, cooling his heels at a terminal, being as productive as he can be with a Bluetooth and a laptop. Thankfully, those technologies have continued to advance at an amazing pace. Otherwise, the guy would be balancing his briefcase on his knees, taking notes while on a call at a phone bank!
Reading the number of articles written about the Great Evil of Private Aviation that I do, I can’t help but see the writers metaphorically lining the jet-bridge clapping and jeering at the executives boarding air mass-transit, the writers gleefully claiming a victory for the proletariat. This media witch hunt has the markings of an aviation version of the 1793 Reign of Terror. Certainly we don’t see people dragged through the streets to Madame Guillotine, but we do see flight departments sacrificed on the altar of mob mentality.
I agree that the Big Three CEOs were thoughtless in their use of private aircraft to carry them and their begging bowls to Washington to request bailout funds; however, I think that for politicians who use government Gulfstreams for travel between the capitol and their constituencies to reprimand and condemn the CEOs is tantamount to a Maybach owner telling a BMW driver that he spends too much money on his car. The major difference that I see is that the government can continue to operate with a trillion dollar deficit while the private sector cannot.
I don’t advocate that private aviation is a “one size fits all” travel solution; however, I realize that each trip must be analyzed to determine its value. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to help manage aircraft for several companies. Typically, those companies do just that: they examine the cost of each trip to determine the best use of their most expensive assets – their employees’ time. Private aircraft, like any other asset, is a tool to be used to further the interests and maximize the profits of a company.
Aircraft ownership and flight departments did not put the automakers into bankruptcy. Likewise, the forced closure of those departments did not allow General Motors to pay back the bailout funds five years early. Smarter overall business decisions did that.
So, rather than attacking Private Aviation, branding it the root of all evil, how about journalists educate themselves on the topic before they jump on the bandwagon? Perhaps they might start looking at overall business practices instead.