UK Broker Tackling Bizjet Perception

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Perception is everything in the business jet industry these days and a European charter and leasing broker says changing those perceptions is her formula for success. Gabriella Somerville started UK-based ConnectJets in 2009 during the depths of the financial and identity crisis that gripped the industry. In a podcast interview with AVweb, she said the company was founded on the principles of value, efficiency and convenience to counter the bad press that had turned private aviation into a symbol of excess for the wealthy minority. "It's basically coming down to changing our verbiage," Somerville, who worked with Sir Richard Branson in the creation of Virgin Airlines, told AVweb. "[We're] getting away from things like luxury and talking about [private aviation] as a smart, efficient business tool."

Somerville said the message is finding a willing audience in Europe where, in the last six months or so, business aviation activity has increased markedly. Those who, for appearances sake, abandoned the red carpet for the jetway are returning to business aviation. The growing list of indignities associated with commercial air travel, not to mention the increasing amount of time it takes to travel on airlines, is helping to fuel the demand, but Somerville is convinced the no-nonsense approach to her company's portrayal of its product is helping turn the tide. While there are a lot of familiar faces back on the aircraft her company represents, she said she's also been gratified to see a lot of new customers giving private aviation a try. "The audience that we are now targeting are seeing it as a viable product," she said. She also noted that while the strong appeal to business efficiency is the company's brand, many of her customers are booking aircraft for personal use, notably to commute to vacation homes in Europe from the UK. "It's a big piece of our business."