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Business Aviation: Have No Excuses and Nothing to Excuse

Posted on: January 8th, 2013 by Pete Agur

Have you noticed how few companies talk publicly about their use of Business Aviation?


Why is that? I can think of three very good reasons:

  1. A core value of corporate privacy.
  2. A concern that any publicity about their use of Business Aviation will be a distraction from the core business.
  3. A fear that perceived inappropriate use of Business Aviation services will lead to public embarrassment, or worse.



Many companies have a core value of privacy.  That value may be sourced from their corporate culture or their competitive environment.  How they travel, via public transportation or via Business Aviation, is encompassed within a veil of discretion.  These companies are consistent in their position on privacy across the expanse of their business activities.


On the other hand, companies that are inconsistent in their position on privacy are the ones who are easy targets for gadflies and their exposes.  A situational privacy policy (pay no attention to the airplane behind the curtain) is a magnet for scrutiny.



Any prolonged defense of Business Aviation is a distraction from the normal course of the enterprise.  That defense is often a reaction to a challenge or threat.  If it is preempted proactively, the need to invest time and effort into your Business Aviation use is often avoided or greatly diminished.


Business Aviation services are part of your company’s infrastructure.  No more, no less.  You don’t hide your investment in your company campus.  You don’t hide your investment in information systems.  So, don’t hide your investment and use of Business Aviation.  Acknowledge Business Aviation as a company resource that is essential, like facilities and information systems, with clear policies and practices governing their application.  Don’t make excuses.


Nothing to Excuse

If you are not going to make excuses, you should also have nothing to excuse.  Some companies avoid public discussion about their Business Aviation services because they are indefensible.  Any public or internal discussion is likely to be embarrassing, at best.  The countermeasure to this risk is to stay on the whiter side of gray.


There are two arenas to focus on to assure you are on the whiter side of gray:

1. Operational standards and practices and

2. Governance.


Operational Standards and Practices

Early in my career as a consultant I had the chairman of a FORTUNE 500 company explain in very clear terms what he expected in the performance of Business Aviation services.  He wanted standards and practices that were the equivalent of the major domestic airlines (at that time the leaders in safety), or better.  He went on to say that high standard should be universal in its application for all of his company’s Business Aviation travelers.  I knew he was sincere but I also knew his company had some aerial survey flight operations that were high risk.  When I asked him if those operations were an exception he did not hesitate.  He said they either had to meet that standard or they would have to be done another way.  There was no gap between his mouth and his movement.


His example points the way: close any gaps you have between your intended and your actual operational standards and practices.  For instance, if you require two turbine engines and two highly qualified and experienced pilots for your Business Aviation operations, don’t allow that standard to diminish when your people travel on charter aircraft.  Specify that the charter operators provide only twin-turbine aircraft with two highly qualified and experienced pilots on all your trips.  There will be a cost for doing this.  But it is the normal cost of meeting your standards, not an “added” cost.



If your use of your Business Aviation services is on the darker side of gray it may only be a matter of time before they become a public embarrassment.


That embarrassment shouldn’t come from who uses the aircraft.  You can define any way you like how the aircraft are used for business purposes.  It is a tactical decision as to whether Business Aviation services are used to carry customers, any member of the company or only the top executives of the company.


The darker part of the question is based in how the aircraft are used.  For instance, you become vulnerable when Business Aviation services are used to carry passengers for personal travel or non-business travelers (spouses and significant others) are added to the manifest.


The whiter side of gray can be achieved by having very clear policies that closely govern how Business Aviation services may be used and who they may carry.  For instance, one chairman negotiated the continued use of company aircraft for a year after his retirement.   This created a conflict with the needs of the enterprise on two levels.  First, the aircraft would clearly be used for the retiring chairman’s personal transportation.  Second, when the aircraft was carrying the retiring chairman it would not be available for its intended purpose; furthering the success of the enterprise.


The answer was relatively painless.  The chairman was “given” a fractional debit card to cover his anticipated travel.  This elegant solution separated personal versus business use and it made it easy to financially account for the settlement.


There is no need to hide Business Aviation services in a dark closet.  Establish policies, practices  and governance that assure you stay on the lighter side of gray.

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