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Get ready for your pre-season tours

Air Partner - 25 apr 2018

Chartering Aircraft made simple, Jon Cavalli Air Partner's Commercial Jets Trading Manager discusses how to get the best from your group travel and prepare you for your next pre-season tour.

Working in line with a club’s travel policy – what things do you have to consider?

Firstly, we have to know what the club’s travel policy is. Policies do tend to vary from club to club depending on travel distance and budgets. Knowing the club’s expectation right away enables us to find the right aircraft and understand the key drivers influencing the club’s final decision on which aircraft option they choose. For example, over a short distance, some teams prefer a Turbo-prop aircraft such as the ATR42, which is generally more cost effective than taking a jet over the same distance. However, some clubs will insist on the speed and in-flight comfort of a jet and are willing to pay more for that. Over longer distances however, it could be that there is an expectation for all players to have a ‘lie-flat’ business class type seat so that they can be fully rested on arrival.


What are the key responsibilities of Air Partner when dealing with club travel?

It’s about making the experience as seamless as possible and ultimately getting the passengers to their destination safely and on time. We have our own in-house compliance department, which evaluates every aircraft we charter to ensure they meet standards and regulations. In addition to this, we recently acquired the aviation safety management and consulting company Baines Simmons which can conduct full-scale audits of the airline operators we propose – a service that was utilised recently by a sports team to give them that extra assurance they were looking for. We also have flight managers on board the aircraft so that we can co-ordinate and bring together the arrangements on the day of operation and facilitate a smooth travel experience for our clients.


For a large number of clubs, team travel can be very expensive. How do you work with them to keep control of costs?

It’s a very competitive industry both with the potential operators and the travel management companies that exist to service this business. We always look to offer our customers a minimum of three aircraft options for their requirements to ensure competitive pricing, and we use our experience to recommend the solution that best fits what the customer is looking to achieve. Some clubs will look at value as opposed to price alone. We demonstrated our capability to use our relationships and experience with airline operators to create operational efficiencies for one of our customers during a pre-season tour last year. Air Partner chartered an aircraft from a world-renowned legacy carrier for a team to fly back to Europe after their tour. The club benefitted from the fact that the airline operated a scheduled service with fare paying passengers on the positioning leg to offset the cost of the charter. Whilst this doesn’t happen every day, there are occasions in the right circumstances when this can be achieved.


How do you maintain a ‘Best in Class’ travel experience for clubs?

For me, the small details make such a big difference. Remembering each club’s complex catering requirements can go a long way in enhancing the experience. Similarly, individual bottles of water in each seat pocket, headrest covers branded with the club’s badge, and pre-printed boarding cards are all examples of things that can really make a difference on the day. We never underestimate the importance of these details to the client’s experience. See our ServicePLUS for more information.


Can you offer big groups such as a football club a discreet service at an airport?

Yes we can - the best way to do this is through a private terminal or fixed base operator. Over the many years that we have been operating this type of flight for our sports team clients and other VIP/corporate groups, we have built up an extensive network of contacts at private terminals across the world. Having this expertise and these networks is vital and enables us to ensure a discreet and hassle-free experience for the passengers with the option for a private terminal.


How do you help clubs with check in & passport control in light of increased level of threat in security at airports?

That’s where our experience comes in and it’s part of our role to advise the client on what those procedures are in advance. The aim is to complete this process on the day as smoothly as possible. The procedures always have to be followed but there are things that we can do to help with this. For example, we can arrange to stagger the arrival of passengers at security so that small groups go through one at a time. This helps to keep the process flowing and saves the passengers from having to queue.


It’s essential that clubs do not succumb to delays. How does a charter service work in this respect?

With a dedicated charter, clients have greater control over their journey than on a scheduled service. While you cannot ever completely eliminate the risk of disruptions and delays, part of our role is to minimise that risk and assist with contingency planning in the event of delays. Often teams will fly out one or two days before the game itself and teams flying domestically often have their coach on standby for worst-case scenario transportation. In addition, part of Air Partner’s CharterPLUS guarantee includes a commitment to provide a replacement aircraft in the event of aircraft technical failure on the day.


What advice can you give to clubs in preparation for Brexit and how are you preparing for this?

Air Partner is an international business with a number of offices across the European continent including France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. We have close working relationships with our international offices with many common airline suppliers. We are in a good position to be able to handle this and be flexible with any changes we may or may not have to make once the full details of how this is going to impact the industry emerge.

Our advice to clubs is follow the news and if you have any queries about the impact Brexit will have on aircraft charters domestically, within Europe, or further afield, then speak to Air Partner or your travel management provider who can give you the necessary guidance. For Air Partner, the customer relationship is about more than just arranging and delivering aircraft charters – it’s about working with our customers to advise, navigate, and extend the benefit of our experience in handling any impacts that may affect.


Are there any destinations that that you believe are growing in popularity with clubs?

The pre-season tours for clubs have definitely grown over the last few years both in terms of the distances some teams travel and the number of clubs that take part. The attraction is the investment that the countries are putting into the industry, so it makes sense that the clubs arrange friendly matches in these emerging markets. In particular, despite its logistical challenges China is becoming very popular with clubs as well as the USA and the Middle East. Moreover, there is also an increase in clubs chartering aircraft to take them to training camps around Europe – Switzerland, Spain and Portugal are all destinations that can offer clubs top class facilities for their players. The aircraft charter element of this gives clubs the flexibility they require.


See our 5 simple steps of chartering aircraft for your next trip.


If you’d like to enquire about flying with Air Partner for your next pre-season tour, contact one of our Account Managers. 

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Published by fcbusiness, April 2018