BBGA: UK Business Aviation Recovering, But Challenges Remain

The British Business General Aviation Association (BBGA) says that business aviation demand has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels in parts of the UK, but challenges remain, ranging from lingering Brexit-related issues to tackling sustainability.

Despite the progress on returning business aviation demand, “We are not out of the woods yet,” BBGA CEO Marc Bailey told the BBGA Connects gathering late last month at London Oxford Airport, where demand is currently 30% higher than in 2019.

Still, challenges presented by Brexit continue to stress the U.K. business aviation sector. These include problems with licensing, cabotage and permits, spare parts delivery times and loss of access to the pan-European Satellite Navigation System (EGNOS).

Bailey called the UK’s loss of participation in EGNOS, combined with the loss of unfettered EU market access, “a double blow for UK airspace users,” adding that a dialog is ongoing to find a solution. 

“As air traffic returns and flying activity increases, there will be pressure on existing airfields,” Bailey said. “We need to research the network of airfields needed so we can plan airline schedules well in advance as part of the UK’s future aviation strategy.”

BBGA Deputy Chair and Saxon Air CEO Alex Durand highlighted how sustainability continues to be a “huge issue” facing the sector. The association is in the process of forming a Sustainability Work Group that will be headed by James Hardie, BBGA board chair and Collins Aerospace Marketing Chief for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Activists want to know if journeys by air are really necessary. Well, yes they are,” Durand said. “If you want investment and employment opportunities, then business and private aviation have a key role to play. It’s in the interest of the UK to keep this sector flying whilst continuing to minimize its impact on the environment.”

BBGA chair and Air Law Firm partner Aoife O’Sullivan said that her law firm, which deals with private aviation matters, has been “very busy” over the last year, with aircraft registration proving a key challenge following Brexit. She added that UK operators are increasingly inclined to shift aircraft to more favorable jurisdictions where it’s easier to quickly obtain an air operator’s certificate.

“Sales of older business jets are up. General demand is there and there are plenty of new owners entering the market,” O’Sullivan said. “Getting aircraft registered, however, thanks to Brexit, is much more convoluted.” 

Ben Goldstein

Based in Washington, Ben covers Congress, regulatory agencies, the Departments of Justice and Transportation and lobby groups.