Exceeding expectations

posted on 11th June 2018

Further improvement in service is Berne-based charter operator Nomad Aviation’s recipe to counter the strong Swiss franc

Nomad Aviation’s first ultra-long range aircraft significantly expands the Swiss operator’s VIP and executive charter offer. A Bombardier Global 5000 started service in November with an initial flight from Switzerland to Siberia.

The Nomad fleet extends from light jets (Cessna CJ1+ and CJ3) to super-midsize (Gulfstream 200, Cessna Citation X) and heavy jets (Challenger 604, Embraer Legacy), now supplemented by a Challenger 605 that started service in February and the Global 5000.

With a range exceeding 4,700nm, the Global offers 13 VIP seats in day configuration, two king-size and three single beds and bed in night configuration, and a large cargo compartment. “Our advertising message – St Petersburg-Male and London-Washington non-stop – underlines our step up,” says Nomad CEO Claude Neumeyer.

An additional G200, currently being refurbished, will be ready in June or July for summer charter and will take the available fleet to 15. “We don’t want to have too much of a mixed fleet in terms of manufacturers,” Neumeyer adds. “So we won’t be adding Falcons, for example.”

Nomad’s aircraft are nominally based in Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg), the UK (London), France (Paris, Nice) and Switzerland (Zurich, Geneva, Basel and the company’s Berne headquarters). The sales team will look for charters from wherever the aircraft terminate, which increases hotel and crew costs but reduces fuel consumption. However, Neumeyer accepts that the chance to sell – and control – charters from some of those locations is limited, so ferry flights are inevitable.

Demand for larger jets is up on 2009-10 levels.  “Our focus is on eastern Europe, central Asia and the Far East, but not so much the Middle East, where the clientele is different,” Neumeyer says. “We’re not big in the transatlantic market, where there is a lot of competition from US operators flying older aircraft. There’s not such a big market in Europe for smaller jets such as the CJ3 and it’s very much price driven.”

The exchange rate has penalised Nomad in recent times, as a lot of its costs are in the strong Swiss franc but its charter rates are quoted in euros.

“We have to meet the competition by being more efficient and improving our service,” Neumeyer says. “That means working with customers individually – there are no standard solutions. Japanese and Russian clients will want food they are familiar with. It’s more work for the company and for cabin attendants, but we have to meet or exceed client expectations.”

Other issues that concern him are Europe-wide rather than specifically Swiss, including the Emissions Trading Scheme. “The US, Asian and many other countries are opposed to it, and the problem is that Europe ends up paying unilaterally. International aviation regulation should be driven by ICAO, not the EU,” he says.

Neumeyer is looking for more focus on airports if aviation is serious about trying to reduce its emissions. “We should focus on things that are easier to control. If you’re waiting in line for 30 minutes, you’re also emitting. I don’t see why the industry could not set a target time of 15 minutes from start-up to getting airborne.”

A streamlined slot allocation process would also help business aviation especially, Neumeyer argues. “Airports such as Geneva operate efficiently but at many airports you have to file your request before they allocate you a slot, so it’s difficult to pre-plan. The system of booking slots via a website is too easily abused.”