The Football World Cup is probably the most watched sporting event on the planet. Everything, from the country bids to host the next World Cup, to the preliminary qualification rounds, and the draw for the group stage, is a source of huge interest and excitement and the anticipation builds way before the month long tournament itself begins. So one thing that any nation hosting the World Cup can count on is a massive influx of spectators from all parts of the globe – and a good few of these will be fortunate enough to be arriving by private jet.
For the FBOs in the host country there is no greater logistical challenge to their organisational skills. Our special report on the Brazilian World Cup in this issue features interviews with Lider, Colt and Universal and highlights how essential proper advance planning is to ensuring a successful experience for all concerned.
Mark Abbott, Group FBO Director at ExecuJet knows exactly how much of a challenge this can be. ExecuJet was at the heart of managing private jet flight movements throughout South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup. Before that event he gained a wealth of experience during the 2006 German World Cup. “What we saw there was that private jets started arriving well ahead of the World Cup Opening Ceremony, and we had the same experience here in South Africa,” he remembers.
“Before the tournament proper begins, you have an influx of private flights as FIFA officials, delegates and tournament sponsors arrive. Your planning, right from the outset, has to take into account the tight security that any host country is going to wrap around the tournament.
“Our FBOs are very conveniently located at Cape Town International Airport and Lanseria International Airport and we have plenty of space there, which made planning a lot easier for us than it will be for the Brazilians, who are very tight for ramp space at many of the match airports,” he comments. Lanseria FBO has a 9000 square metre hangar with a large apron. The Cape Town FBO has a 5,000 square metre hangar and sufficient ramp space. Both locations were able to make use of additional airport parking which was secured well before the event started, added Abbott
“On the day of the World Cup Final we had some 200 aircraft parked at Lanseria, while at Cape Town for the semi-final we had over 80 aircraft. We pumped over a million litres of JetA through the month of the competition. Organising all the logistics that go into making an event on this scale run smoothly is a massive undertaking,” he notes. “Regular meetings were held both internally and with all our major third party suppliers such as hotels, ground transportation, fuel supply and the Airport authorities without which we could not have pulled it off. We were conducting a massive operational orchestra,” he reflects.
ExecuJet began its serious planning for the 2010 World Cup 12 months before the event began. “We spent time talking to operators at the big events, like NBAA. We presented at the NBAA International Operators Conference and did presentations on our planning and capabilities for the World Cup to all the major Trip Support companies. We handled over 95% of all the traffic coming in to South Africa for the event so we knew we really were at the heart of it,” he notes.
Staff training for the event was a huge operation, as was the preparatory work with partners. “We spent three months training volunteer students from the various flight schools to bring them up to speed with the safety requirements that go with handling so many aircraft on an international apron. We had to skill up and increase our operational head count,” Abbott says.
One of the most memorable moments, he recalls, was the arrival of the World Cup Trophy itself. “We had to unveil the Trophy for customs inspection. There was a customs inspector, a police officer, two FIFA officials and me in a locked room. The Trophy was handled with kid gloves, literally, and moved off very swiftly to a secure location in Cape Town,” he recalls.