Minneapolis Star-Tribune
Business aviation helps the bottom line
Jan 17, 2010
Op/Ed By Tim Ashenfelter

Minnesota companies derive many benefits from having company planes available for their employees.

Media coverage in recent weeks has suggested that "business aviation" -- ownership and use of an airplane to accomplish business objectives -- is not an effective use of a local company's resources. Missing from the coverage was a balancing view that business aviation actually helps companies enhance their efficiency, increase employee productivity and often reduce total travel costs.

There are certainly many reasons why smart Minnesota companies can and do use business aviation to meet some of their transportation challenges. But perhaps the No. 1 reason is that it allows companies to do more, in less time, and often at less cost than other transportation alternatives.

Most people recognize that productivity, flexibility and dependability are attributes of well-managed companies. They also are benefits of business aviation. Thus, it should come as no surprise that approximately 95 percent of the companies ranked by leading business magazines as America's "most innovative," "most admired," "best brand,"
or "best customer service companies" rely on business aviation.

Of course, we've all seen the newspaper headlines and heard late-night talk show punch lines about stories like the auto executives' trip to Washington aboard business jets in 2008 to seek government loans. But highly publicized events like that overlook the many legitimate reasons companies of all sizes, all across the United States, rely on business aircraft.

The fact is, dozens of responsible, well-managed Minnesota-based companies consider a business aircraft a valuable workhorse that helps managers, salespeople, and technical experts stay connected to customers and grow their business. Business airplanes allow companies to turn travel time into work time because employees can sit face-to-face and discuss proprietary information, prepare for meetings or fine-tune a presentation.

Survey confirms business use

These facts are confirmed in a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted for the National Business Aviation Association and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Business aircraft passengers reported spending much more time on work-related tasks than when traveling on a commercial jet. Specifically, 66 percent were engaged in work-related meetings with fellow employees or were involved in individual work-related tasks compared to 31 percent of airline passengers.

In addition, the majority of people who fly on business aircraft are not upper-level executives -- they are midlevel employees, including salespeople, engineers and technicians who use the travel time to continue working with customers. These passengers often depart early in the morning, sometimes stop at several locations during the day, and are often home the same night, saving on hotels and other related expenses.

It's also worth noting that the airplanes that are typically used to conduct these missions are in contrast to the popular perception. Most companies utilize smaller aircraft; in many cases, business planes are utilitarian, offering a cabin that is roughly the size of a large SUV and accommodates four to eight passengers. (Some of these planes don't even have a lavatory on board.) Functional, yes, but hardly the image often portrayed in media reports.

Business aircraft are used by Minnesota companies ranging from one-person enterprises to Fortune 500 companies. They shuttle employees to and from locations in outstate Minnesota and throughout the region and transport them to business meetings across the globe. During flight, employees can be answering e-mails on their Blackberries, working with colleagues to finalize a new business presentation, or making a secure call to a supplier in Brazil. This illustrates why business aircraft are a multiplier of efficiency and productivity.

Destination is also a critical factor for Minnesota companies using business aircraft. Most flights are made to airports with infrequent or no scheduled airline service, making it difficult or impossible to travel to a destination by commercial carrier. Nearly half of all business aircraft flights are to these locations, and another third are to secondary airports. Only 19 percent of flights are to large commercial airports. Add the fact that more than 100 U.S. cities have lost some or all airline service over the past two years, and you can see why business aircraft travel often is not just the most prudent transport option -- it's the only one available.

In our current economic environment, business aircraft may appear to be just a perk. But the facts demonstrate that they serve an important role in helping companies to do more in less time. Minnesota companies wanting to remain competitive in today's changing economy need every resource available to them to increase productivity and efficiency -- including the use of business aircraft.

Destination is also a critical factor for Minnesota companies using business aircraft. Most flights are made to airports with infrequent or no scheduled airline service, making it difficult or impossible to travel to a destination by commercial carrier. Nearly half of all business aircraft flights are to these locations, and another third are to secondary airports. Only 19 percent of flights are to large commercial airports. Add the fact that more than 100 U.S. cities have lost some or all airline service over the past two years, and you can see why business aircraft travel often is not just the most prudent transport option -- it's the only one available.

In our current economic environment, business aircraft may appear to be just a perk. But the facts demonstrate that they serve an important role in helping companies to do more in less time. Minnesota companies wanting to remain competitive in today's changing economy need every resource available to them to increase productivity and efficiency -- including the use of business aircraft.

Tim Ashenfelter is president and CEO of ASI Jet Center/MSP Jet Center and a member of the Minnesota Business Aviation Association and the National Business Aviation Association. His e-mail address is info@asijet.com.





No Plane No Gain: Sampling of 2010 Coverage

Since the launch of the No Plane No Gain advocacy campaign, a concerted effort has been made to deliver the message about the importance of business aviation through national and local news outlets. This sampling of national and local television coverage in 2010, highlights the campaign's effectiveness in communicating the industry's importance.

NBAA's Bolen on Fox Business Network

Click here to see Ed Bolen, President and CEO of NBAA, in an interview on Fox Business Network

NBAA's Bolen on DC's Newschannel 8

In an interview with Newschannel 8, Bolen explains that "... business aviation is prudent, cost-effective, and oftentimes, the only way to get where you're going."





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