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Flying for business in Europe

I’ve tried to use our group PA28 for a few meetings and only managed a couple of handful of times before. Once to visit a property I own in Sandgate, (landed at Pent Farm), another trip to Inverness to meet a colleague for a meeting for a couple of hours, another time to visit a property and meet an agent in South Wales (landed at Rhigos gliding site), plus probably about another 5 or 6 that i can think of over the last couple of years. Property (residential) is my main business and so I can end up driving long distances but invariably when doing so, I try to combine visits with other places, so that I’m not just driving to one place, then turning round and coming straight back. However. of the times that I’ve flown before, I think I’ve probably cancelled at least that number again – plus the same again on top – mainly due to weather, and mostly the distances need to be at least a 4 hour drive away to make it worthwhile.

How many other people use their aircraft for business trips, and how often (as a percentage) of your total annual flying time does this represent?

Me. Probably about 70% business.

EGTK Oxford

My two planes are both alternatively used about 50% of the time for business travel. All my clients are at airports, so it works out perfectly!

Home runway, in central Ontario, Canada, Canada

It is indeed difficult to fly “on business” using light GA.

It can be done if you “pick your battles” with care – but not everybody gets the opportunity.

To start with, there are two very different kinds of “flying on business”

  • visiting customers (and perhaps people who lend you money) formally
  • visiting all other types of business contacts or events

The first is tricky because you have to turn up. I have done it in the past, but only if the distance could be driven the night before and then only in two scenarios – (a) the wx the following morning was absolutely assured or (b) I flew up the night before and stayed locally (so if the flight was not possible that afternoon/evening then I drove up the night before).

It is also tricky because most customers resent paying for your expensive hobby, so you need to conceal that you flew GA. If you are unable to conceal it, you must play it down, by e.g. saying that you have a 1/20 share in the plane, or you just rented it. The exception to this is if visiting high net worth individuals / the Aston Martin / Ferrari / etc crowd and they usually enjoy seeing somebody obviously wealthy turn up and then it can be an advantage (a TP or bizjet would be better though at the upper end of that personal target attainment scale e.g. RBS / Lehman / Enron). I have a USD 20BN sized customer (subsidiary of) in the UK and have flown there but would have to play down my aircraft ownership severely because they are a highly “political” company with a number of individuals who earn their internal cred using the old tested route of scalping a supplier. In fact like so many these these days the company uses “interesting supply chain management” methods so one needs to be extra careful.

The second is easy because you don’t have to turn up. And this covers a huge range of “business” flying e.g.

  • visiting suppliers/distributors
  • visiting exhibitions
  • conferences (so long as you are not presenting)
  • visiting customers you know well personally

I know of several people who have been doing 200-300hrs/year doing the above sort of flying. It is 100% corporation tax allowable so long as (UK rules) the trip is wholly and exclusively for the business. Visiting these sorts of people is also usually a lot more fun because they pick you up at the airport, etc…

So, when somebody tells you they are flying on business you need to find out which of the two they are actually doing, and if they are doing formal customer visits then in what circumstances

The other factor is obviously the availability of airports – a big issue in Europe. Especially as you obviously want IFR support and, out of the UK, Customs. And avgas, unless you have a TP/jet/diesel.

If you are based near say Bournemouth and your customers are in Aberdeen, then it’s trivial. And so on for a number of big city airport pairs. A lot of them are H24 or close, so you can come back in the evening. But out of say Shoreham, opening 8am and closing 7pm, no ILS – you can usually forget it; it’s a hotel stay usually.

Finally, who is paying for the flight? If you work for yourself, no issue. GA flight is fully reasonable. But if you are employed, the company may not pay for it, or may pay you just a car mileage allowance.

The only person I personally know who has been able to pull this off with a high despatch rate was doing it in a big deiced pressuried twin with radar, was based at Bournemouth and was flying to big ILS airports, was a partner in an investment company, and his contacts were big-money investment targets.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I do fly for business (both option 1 and 2) and do not see too many problems. I cannot recall having to cancel or delay the business trip due to bad weather for quite some time (not last year). The trips are fully tax deductible. If the appointment is abroad I fly. If the appointment is within the small country of the Netherlands, I drive. Simple.

EDLE, Netherlands

Although I have a fairly capable aircraft and I can get all costs reimbursed, I very rarely use the aircraft for business travel (maybe once a year). The reason is that it is simply not practical. Public transport by airline or train happens to be more practical in almost all cases. The metro is in 2 minutes walking distance and takes me to the train station and into the airport terminal at any time.

Most of my business travel is to larger towns where public transport is available and usually GA airports are far away. I never use the car for distances over 100km because I hate wasting my time on roads. That will only change when I can buy a self driving car. GA is OK enroute because I can do work while the AP flies or read the newspaper but there is just too much hassle associated with it.

I don’t. Every week, or every other week I fly to Frankfurt of Dusseldorf from the UK. Firstly the costs of flying GA would not be met by my employer compared to Lufthansa, Air Berlin or BA. Secondly, the despatch rate for me in a PA28 with a PPL + IMCr is pretty low.

However last night sitting at Dusseldorf waiting to fly back, I saw a number of small GA SEP aircraft depart and land. They were in the distance and one was of the SR* type, the other I am not so sure. So it did make me think, could I do a Dusseldorf trip? It seems unlike Frankfurt, at least the landing fee’s cant be so bad at Dusseldorf, and they are more welcoming to GA than even a smaller airport like London City.

Clearly one can do a lot more in a light SEP without de-ice (or even with TKS etc) but it ultimately leads to a discussion of whether you are willing to launch into frontal weather and often pretty obvious icing conditions.

There is a group of pilots who indeed do that kind of flying.

But regardless of the “attitude to risk” angle, I still don’t think many of them are doing formal customer visits.

One thing which does change with a “business” trip is that the landing fee becomes a lot less relevant. I think we pilots get very emotionally attached to the landing fee, when rationally it should not matter whether it is 5% or 10% of the money spent on fuel and the other stuff. On a business trip, a €100 landing fee is probably acceptable because the time of any successful business person is going to be of the order of €500-1000/day.

Also, “cheap airlines” are almost never cheap when you need them, with ticket costs around the €300 mark when bought at a short notice. Obviously, this has to be so because you cannot run a 737 on €20 tickets; the averate ticket has to be about €200 to break even. With 150 €20 tickets you could probably taxi to the holding point and back to the gate.

Last Edited by Peter at 16 May 09:49
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I do my CAT trip tomorrow as I did not fly into fontal weather.
Very convenient.
25 mins taxi to the station
1:20 to London Euston (Saturday schedule, hopefully no bus replacement)
1:30 to Heathrow (tube that is)
2hr waiting there (as I have a checked in suitcase)
2hr flight to Zurich
2:30 hrs wait there for the connection
0:45 mins flight to NUE.
0:20 mins wait for the suitcase (best case)
0:30 mins to the station (U-Bahn)
1:30 to destination.
You better add some buffer time as railways are the weak link.

I love public travel.

If your major airport is not 5 mins down the road and your destination is next to a major airport, you are stuffed.
I had travel times with public transport up to 18hrs and lost 1.5 billable days per week.

United Kingdom

Total flown in the last 12 months: 250 hours, 77% business.

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