Magazine article New Zealand Management

CORPORATE TRAVEL : Flights of Fashion -- the Pros and Cons of Charter and Commercial

Magazine article New Zealand Management

CORPORATE TRAVEL : Flights of Fashion -- the Pros and Cons of Charter and Commercial

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Tatham

If you've ever tried to travel to one of New Zealand's regional centres like New Plymouth or Napier to deal with an urgent business issue, you'll know how frustrating it can be to get there on commercial airlines. A last-minute booking can cost more than a seven-day holiday in Australia. If your meeting plans are uncertain, even travelling to one of the main centres, Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, on a fully flexible fare can be expensive. Your trip might involve an overnight stay and if you've got a large project on at the same time, the time away from the office can be costly.

This is where the convenience of charter travel is an option, albeit one which may may look expensive on first glance.

Nigel Walkington, manager of Pacific Jets in Christchurch, acknowledges charter flights will always be more expensive than travel with commercial airlines but says the convenience it offers is the main factor driving executives to his business. And sometimes convenience and time-saving can be a bigger draw than extra dollars.

It is very time-consuming to transfer through Wellington. Then there's the risk of delays and cancellation. Time is of the essence and commercial airlines are just not doing the job for them [companies]," he believes.

Walkington says a trip from Christchurch to New Plymouth might cost $10,000 on a charter flight. While that is obviously more expensive than a commercial option, you will get there in 40 minutes and be able to get home the same day. The cost can be shared if more than one person is travelling.

He cites one situation where a CEO wanted to fly to a regional centre to sort out an employment dispute. Getting there the next day wasn't going to be good enough. A charter flight provided a suitable solution.

Walkington says chartering aircraft is a very well accepted form of travel in Europe and the United States of America but it's "not the done thing" in New Zealand.

There is a negative perception in New Zealand. We have had situations where executives have booked travel with us but then, when someone on the board finds out, they ring and cancel," he says.

He says this harks back to the 1980s when a lot of companies had their own aircraft, and "executives were seen to be spending shareholders' money wining and dining on corporate jets. But this perception is slowly being overcome and charter air travel is not all wining and dining".

Air National Corporate operates five British Aerospace jetstream J32s on regional routes. These are 19-seat turbo prop aircraft. It also has three privately owned jet aircraft available for charter.

Sales and marketing manager Richard Bagnall says charter flight is convenient to cover a number of destinations in a short period of time.

It can be less expensive," Bagnall says. "It depends on what value they [executives] place on their time."

He says an Auckland to Wellington return flight could cost about $12,000 for six people. There's no inconvenience of waiting in a queue at the airport. On the way they could discuss business and plan for a meeting. The plane is waiting to take them home whenever they are ready to leave, it won't leave without them.

Bagnall says Air National Corporate has a handful of New Zealand corporate clients who use the service once or twice a year. It is used more frequently by people coming from Europe to do business in New Zealand six to 10 times a year.

Air Center One manager Rob Leach says privacy is also a factor driving executives' decisions to use charter air travel.

A lot like to be able to discuss business on the plane without anybody hearing it," he says, adding that on a commercial flight there might be somebody who overhears a discussion or sees some paperwork and later phones a competitor.

Leach says the convenience of transTasman charter air travel should also be attractive to executives. …

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