A Hawker Beechcraft 400XP departs Geneva Airport in 2023 over the large EBACE static aircraft display on the apron. Courtesy EBACE.

Brand problems, shifting politics accompany business aviation to Europe

At EBACE this year, business aviation will again be forced to contend with the opposing political, environmental and commercial forces that could impact its very existence

Log-in here if you’re already a subscriber

Release Date
May 26, 2024
Brand problems, shifting politics accompany business aviation to Europe
GENEVA — Business aviation has an image problem. Zipping from city to city on an aircraft that isn’t shared with the general public and avoids the chaos of airport terminals is understandably seen as a luxury for the uber-wealthy. While trade organizations including the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and its transatlantic sibling, the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) repeatedly point out that business aviation extends beyond this to other uses that benefit the greater public, the image of flying rich people around is still very much attached to this industry in the public’s mind.

The actions of EBAA and NBAA’s own members often don’t help that case. Gulfstream, for example, has been repeatedly enshrined in pop culture as the ultimate high-flying luxury brand and FBOs with names like Million Air don’t necessarily help reinforce the message of an accessible utility for business productivity. 

Yet, both are realities that exist concurrently in this pillar of the aviation business, a truth on display at the commencement of the 2023 European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) when a group of environmental activists protested outside of the event venue just before official programming kicked off. Their gripe? That the industry’s efforts to become more eco-friendly amount, at their core, to greenwashing. Eventually, seven protestors handcuffed themselves to a Gulfstream on static display, interrupting operations at the airport.

Related: TAC/Forum: SAF and the opportunities and challenges for industry sustainability

Now, on the eve of this year’s event, while organizers have pledged additional security measures and a more targeted focus on sustainability, these voices are not going away, indicative of the opposition that many Europeans still have toward business aviation. Two forces currently exist in opposition to one another: a deteriorating political climate for business aviation in Europe with looming European Union elections set for this summer, and senior industry leaders holding fast to the belief that their aircraft will continue to be allowed to operate globally unencumbered by new regulations. 

Meanwhile, both Gulfstream and Bombardier have chosen to not attend the show in 2024, citing both the cost of attendance and greater sales success with more private events. Notable in signaling their pursuit of a less conspicuous industry profile, their absence at EBACE is just as loud — if not louder — than their normally flashy static displays. As the industry gathers in Geneva, that negative space may be hinting at how events like this one could be forced to change in the future as business aviation looks to reshape its brand. 

Subscribe to continue reading...

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.