“Unless there is some accident, we are going to announce at EBACE the acquisition of 16 additional FBOs in Europe, Africa and other places,” says Michel Tohane, Director of General Aviation Business at Aeroports de la Côte d’Azur (ACA).

This year another of ACA’s top executives is in the ShowNews Top Ten. In 2015 it was Dominique Thillaud, Chairman of the Management Board, and this time it’s rightly the turn of Michel Tohane.

Its been a very busy time for him and is about to get even busier as the company expands its International Standard for Business Aviation Handling (IS-BAH)-rated Sky Valet brand further across Europe and beyond. Last year it bought the UniJet FBO at Paris-Le Bourget from the Luxaviation Group, and Spain’s largest FBO chain – with eight locations – from the Gestair Group. These have been added to ACA’s existing Sky Valet FBOs at its owned airports at Cannes-Mandelieu and Golfe de Saint-Tropez, making 11 locations in all. “Now we’re looking at 16 more,” says Belgian-born Tohane

This will bring Sky Valet’s tally to 27 bases (ACA also owns Nice Airport but does not have an FBO there). According to Tohane it’s all about matching the consolidation of Europe’s business aircraft operators. “Big fleet operators and flight support companies are becoming huge and very important as they bring a lot of traffic flow and ask for consistent high quality service across a range of locations. So when you visit big companies like UAS International Trip Support you can imagine the weight it carries when you can say ‘I have 28 destinations in Europe’. Then you can really start talking about discounts, volume deals, marketing actions, whatever,” he says.

New legislation was passed last October to increase aircraft landing weights from 22 tonnes to 35 tonnes at ACA’s Cannes-Mandelieu specialist general aviation airport. “This took 18 months to achieve with a big team and included Dassault engineers. We had to convince the neighbors and the politicians,” said Tohane. “Parking has been rearranged so we are now able to attract more large aircraft.”

Sky Valet’s Spanish airports include Barcelona, Girona, Ibiza, La Coruña, Madrid (which is also its 24/7 operations center), Palma de Mallorca, Santiago de Compostela and Valencia. 

 

Côte d’Azur’s Busiest Period

The three south of France airports owned by ACA – Nice, Cannes-Mandelieu and Golfe de Saint-Tropez ­– have entered their busiest annual period which will take them through to September. At the time of writing the Cannes Film Festival was running from 11-22 May, and from 26-29 May it’s the turn of the Monaco Grand Prix Formula One race weekend. “May is a very heavy month for us,” explained Michel Tohane. Most of the large aircraft land at Nice, while Cannes-Mandelieu handles the smaller traffic. In May 2015 the three airports totaled 5,500 movements, in June it was around 5,000, but August is the most active month with close to 8,000 movements. This equates roughly to around 5,000+ for Nice, 2,000 for Cannes and 1,000 for much smaller St. Tropez. 

 

Too Expensive For You?

Nice Airport offers its private jet passengers the ultimate exclusive shopping experience says Michel Tohane. “In our big General Aviation Terminal I created a shopping center, but I can’t afford to buy anything there – it’s just too expensive! It’s got the most expensive champagne and the most expensive caviar in the world. For example, 10 kg. of caviar costs more than EUR150,000, and some customers buy ten boxes at a time.

“We say that we measure quality in business aviation ‘by measuring the distance from the door of the plane to the door of the limo’. That’s true, but if in this limited distance we can put something that will attract attention and some revenue to the airport, then why should we hesitate to do that? It is a big success! I even have a famous film star customer who sends his butler from Stateside to buy caviar here using the owner’s private jet”.—MV