ACC Aviation, the global aviation services group, reported a strong fourth quarter, validating its decision to expand into new pillars of expertise in aviation finance and technical services. Overall, charter activity and ACMI/leasing were steady, while the US market was extremely strong, dominated by sports charters and corporate groups, where health fears continue to drive people into charter.
“Navigating the pandemic in early 2021 we took the decision to accelerate our investment, expanding our expertise into aviation finance advisory; technical services and to bolster our US presence. Accordingly, we delivered a much better financial year than anticipated,” commented Phil Mathews, ACC Aviation CEO. By Q3 we were seeing additional revenue from clients tapping us for new, complementary expertise. In Q4 we started winning technical services’ work, including successful referrals from other parts of the group.
Three years in the USA – the challenge is recruiting talent in a rebounding market
ACC marked three years of US operations at the close of 2021. US activity has grown to be the largest part of its business and at the turn of the year, a fourth US base was added in South Florida, a key aviation hub. “We are expanding the US team and aim to triple the workforce by year end. “The challenge is finding good people, the whole industry is recruiting now,” Phil said.
ACC Aviation’s consulting business was able to build on the 51% growth achieved in 2020. During Q4 the business was actively involved in aircraft transactions, working on pre-purchase aircraft lease inspections for banks and lessors.
“Just before the holidays we were on a solid path of growth, then Omicron came along, putting some projects on pause,” said ACC Aviation Director Consulting Rob Watts. “ Now we are back on the upswing and look forward to a full recovery by the summer.”
“Aviation has come to terms with living with the economic effects of Covid – at least in a mild form,” he noted. “Into 2022 we will be observing how the new start-up airlines - with newly raised capital, clean balance sheets and access to attractive lease prices on aircraft will fare alongside the established carriers who have needed to take on a lot of debt in order to survive.”
Q4 consulting and trading activity
- Conducted a pre-lease inspection and technical acceptance for a Baltic ACMI carrier.
- Engaged for the pre-purchase inspection and acquisition of a B737-300 for a European asset owner.
- Undertook pre-purchase inspection on a portfolio of DHC8-400’s for Ecuatoriana Airlines.
- Completion of business planning assignment for a start-up airline in Italy.
- Engaged by an African financial institution to provide technical inspection, due diligence and advisory services on a portfolio of assets.
- Engaged by a Middle East asset owner to perform the inspection of one CFM56-3C engine.
- Engaged by an Asian asset owner to manage the C check of one B737 BBJ.
- Engaged by a European ACMI airline to remarket one B737-400HGW.
- Engaged by a Middle East lessor to perform an aircraft portfolio appraisal.
- Independent market commentary during the Dubai Air Show for Arabian Aerospace’s TATV and Aviation Week’s Wingspan News.
Sports charter dominates Q4, other sectors will be back in 2022
ACC Aviation offered a variety of charter solutions in Q4, responding to continued travel restrictions. Strongest activity was in sports and corporate travel. ACC supported elite sports teams, plus several big corporations who struggled with restricted scheduled service availability, plus a few leisure charters. “These sectors will continue to be busy and in 2022 we expect the return of broader charter in sectors that were quiet last year,” commented Director of Charter Richard Smith. “New enquiries are coming in from the automotive industry and we are confident that demand for music tours and financial roadshows will return too now that confidence is returning”, he noted.
“An adequate amount of charter capacity still exists on commercial airliners, although some prolific airline partners we used right up to Q4 are now returning to their normal network schedules, so capacity may tighten up a little. As the market recovers however, new airline start-ups are launching, bringing extra lift, while established airlines may also have the confidence to add to their fleets,” he noted.
“US charter performed exceptionally well in Q4, the American market being less hard hit by the same European travel restrictions. As US air carriers returned aircraft previously offered up for charter to scheduled services, however, we also experienced crewing issues, having identified aircraft availability,” commented Jamie Harris, ACC Aviation President Americas.
Charter highlights for Q4 included:
- Upped demand for US-Caribbean charters, including island hopping connections.
- Last minute round-the-clock work securing three commercial aircraft to enable the Rutgers University football team to fly to Jacksonville, FL for the year end Gator Bowl 2021.
- Secured several private jet charters in the holiday period (including Gulfstream G650 and Global Express aircraft) for family flights from North America to Europe.
- Provision of commercial charter aircraft, operating between the USA and French Guyana in support of the James Webb telescope launch on December 25th.
- Arranged a Florida-bound Airbus A320 charter for YouTube influencer Eric Decker. He chartered the whole aircraft for an immersive experience with specially selected followers, video-ing the whole journey for his channel.
- Arranged an ultra-long-haul Dreamliner charter for Argentina’s Boca Juniors from Buenos Aires to Riyadh for the Diego Armando Maradona Tribute Game.
“Continuing travel restrictions around the world in 2021 made it difficult to plan, but this translated into a big opportunity for us,” concluded Phil Mathews. “ACC sits at the crossroads of any market movement within aviation - be it customers looking to grow their fleets, acquire aircraft, divest or reduce their fleet, arrange debt financing, valuations, appraisals, inspections through to offering charter and ACMI over short to long term periods.