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Charter operators convert 'big match' sports bonanza into a rising tide of business
Private charter operators in Europe are enjoying a sporting bonanza as athletes and rugby and football teams, as well as their supporters, swell the demand for fast and efficient travel.

Private charter operators in Europe are enjoying a sporting bonanza as athletes and rugby and football teams, as well as their supporters, swell the demand for fast and efficient travel. Even charter operators in nations that largely ignored the World Cup rugby final in Paris between South Africa and England have benefited. "We sold a charter flight on our Learjet 45 for fans to the rugby final from Southampton to Paris Le Bourget and back, with four passengers to Paris and back with eight passengers on the Sunday," says delighted ProAir business development manager Markus Ciravegna. "Up to then we had not been asked to provide charters for rugby which is not that popular here in Germany."

However, ProAir regularly services the demand from several football clubs as well as biathlon, ice hockey and volleyball teams. There is business from Champions League contenders VFB Stuttgart, German Bundesliga teams, Austria's Red Bull Salzburg and their football coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

"Sports has always been an interesting part of group charter flights but it is now benefiting from extreme growth. We have three Champions League and five UEFA stage phase participants. That means matches during the week and on the weekend. So their schedules are really tight and that's why they are also booking flights within Germany for their Bundesliga matches. Winter sports, such as biathlon, are very popular here in Germany. Many companies are incorporating these events for incentive schemes. Next year's European football championship in Switzerland and Austria are appearing on the agenda already. Requests - not only for the final - are coming up daily."

He adds: "Our aim is to get some more aircraft for our fleet." ProAir has already recruited a number of pilots for two Learjets and management and support staff.

Hundreds of city bankers reportedly chartered private jets to fly them from London to Paris for England's rugby clashes against South Africa and France. London City Airport says bankers can leave their offices in Canary Wharf after work on Friday, be at the airport in 10 minutes, and 70 minutes later, including boarding and taxiing, be at Paris Le Bourget. Most popular are the eight-seater Learjet 45 and Cessna Citation Bravo. Chapman Freeborn even advised executives to "book early to avoid costly disappointment" as tens of thousands of rugby fans descended on Paris. Airports including Farnborough and Biggin Hill enjoyed high demand for flights to the Stade de France.

NetJets Europe reported one of its busiest weekends with scores of bookings. Mark Booth, chairman and ceo, says: "It's fantastic that so many of our customers used their aircraft to cheer on England and South Africa."

Air Partner, rugby world cup final carrier for all teams travelling between stadiums in France, Wales and Scotland, operated 41 flights between 30 August and 8 October moving 2,000 rugby professionals and their equipment between matches. Six different aircraft types, including Boeing 737s and Fokker 100s, carried an average of 50 players and staff at a time to and from 13 different airports, eight in France and the others in Portugal, Italy, the Republic of Ireland and the U.K.

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