Air Partner plc - 30 Aug 2016
After a busy few months for the company, Clive Chalmers, Director Commercial Jets UK, discusses Air Partner’s expertise in the automotive industry – from the most popular destinations for industry events, to the finer details of making the journey as time-efficient and comfortable as possible for passengers.
Which destinations are particularly popular for automotive events and why?
In winter the most popular destination is the Mediterranean - Spain, Portugal, southern France and Italy. Greece has also been popular over the last couple of years, and we have carried out two major projects here.
Spain has been a top destination for several years. Cities like Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Valencia have excellent infrastructures, and many DMCs, travel agencies and hotels here have extensive experience in preparing and carrying out major events.
For us, it’s really important that the airports are familiar with procedures and cooperate with us. This makes it so much easier to fulfil special requests such as off-airport check-ins, special handling at gates and even ‘gate catering’ – a civilised snack before you board the plane.
Smaller events with fewer guests have a greater range of choice in terms of destination. Recently we have been seeing a trend towards places like Bilbao, Reykjavik, Montpellier and Zadar in Croatia – all of which are still relatively new destinations for automotive events. Choosing an unusual location can create a bigger buzz around the launch of a new product and the manufacturer can impress their guests with their innovative ideas.
It works well when clients come to us at the start of the planning process so the above mentioned infrastructural points at the airport can be considered within the choice of destination. We can help with every aspect of the project, from budget to timings, and to see what is feasible. The motto here is: It doesn’t cost anything to ask!
When organising travel logistics for big events, which do you recommend – charter flights or scheduled tickets? Or a combination of both?
We look at all the options to make sure we find the right solution for our client. Charter flights and scheduled tickets complement each other perfectly and can be combined in numerous different ways to produce a personalised solution. The combination of charter and scheduled flights is becoming increasingly popular as it is often the most cost effective solution - particularly for larger events. For example, it works well when groups of passengers are coming from different locations, as they can fly to one central airport on scheduled flights and then board the same chartered aircraft from there. And depending on the group size, it can be cheaper to charter a smaller plane and then book scheduled tickets for the remaining passengers.
Is it possible to find cost effective group travel solutions on scheduled flights?
Of course. If you have 10 guests or more, you get a special group rate. However, many TMCs (travel management companies) and in-house travel agents specialise in individual tickets and predominantly use booking systems such as Amadeus. For group tickets, you generally have to enquire directly with the airline. It can be quite a time-consuming task, but at Air Partner we do all the research for you. We have contacts in our system for the group departments of airlines worldwide, whom we regularly ask for group rates. It's quick and easy. We are happy to let the travel agencies carry out the bookings as we don’t want to compete with them, but we can be there as an extra resource. And of course we are very happy to make the bookings if that works best.
Who manages the scheduled flights for back-to-back events, and who is there to answer guests’ questions?
Our scheduled flight department manages the logistics for all projects to make sure everything runs smoothly. This includes creating individual travel itineraries branded with the customer or event logo. Customers also often book a 24/7 hotline with us so that we can respond to all guest enquiries and booking requests on their behalf.
What other Air Partner services are popular?
Our ServicePLUS department, which is in charge of organising additional services around the bookings, offers basically everything you could imagine! ‘Gate catering’and branded headrest covers are both really popular. We are increasingly getting requests for extra services such as off-airport check-ins. These are particularly helpful for large events with 10-20,000 guests, as it makes the whole process so much more efficient. The event organisers also want to optimise the time they have for the event itself and they don’t want their guests to have to wait for long periods of time at the baggage claim or airport check-in.
What projects are currently on the agenda at Air Partner?
This autumn we are arranging some small press and dealer events for car manufacturers. It really gets going again in January / February 2017, when we are running projects which involve over 20,000 passengers!
Our aviation experts can provide you with more information on group travel for events.