Air Partner has enjoyed strong trading over the first five months of its financial year and now expects to surpass management expectations for the year ending 31 January 2022.
The company is now trading well ahead of pre-COVID levels. This performance has been driven in part by the ongoing high levels of activity in US private jets, where the large domestic market has enabled HNWIs to continue flying. Trading is also strong in group charter, driven by government, sports and cruise sector work. Momentum is starting to build in UK private jets, with business now back at pre-COVID levels, and this is expected to continue as the vaccine roll-out drives the return of business and leisure travel. Meanwhile, freight was busy at the start of the financial year, delivering COVID-19 test kits and vaccine raw materials, but this activity has now reduced. As a region, Europe remains challenging, and the group does not currently expect to see a material recovery until 2022.
The private jets performance continues to benefit from Air Partner's JetCard programme, which allows clients to buy private jet flying hours in advance, while offering fixed rates and the ability to change booking details at short notice, without penalty. It is proving extremely popular as it gives travellers the ability to fly in safety the moment travel restrictions are lifted. New JetCard sales in the current financial year, as at the end of June 2021, are up 36.8 per cent versus the prior period and JetCard deposits now stand at GBP18.9 million, up 6.2 per cent on the year-end balance.
Air Partner safety and security division continues to see improvement as airports scale up operations in anticipation of increased passenger numbers. Following the successful conversion of many of its safety training courses from classrooms to virtual delivery, Baines Simmons is seeing a strong recovery with the military sector, with customers including the UK Military Aviation Authority, Leonardo and the Royal New Zealand Defence Force. Work with commercial aviation organisations remains subdued as a result of government restrictions; however, the group sees strong potential going forward, particularly in design organisation, such as its work supporting Heart Aerospace on the design of an all-electric regional aircraft, and helping organisations to manage their risk as they prepare to scale up activity.
Government restrictions have also led to a slower recovery at Redline on account of low airport movements. Despite this, in the financial year to date, the company has renewed nine contracts, totalling nearly one million pounds, and secured five new business wins with Gatwick airport, Doncaster Sheffield airport, Teesside International airport, DHL and the Welsh Parliament, worth a combined GBP191,000.
Although the timing of easing of restrictions on travel remains uncertain across Air Partner's various geographies, the board is pleased with the group's performance so far in the current financial year and is optimistic about the prospects for both the charter and safety and security divisions. In particular, it expects to see the ongoing recovery of the aviation industry drive strong demand for Air Partner's safety and security services, as previously mothballed operations are brought back into action.
As at the end of June, the group is debt free and has cash in the bank of GBP11.1 million, excluding JetCard cash.