Italy's Air Four expects to boost its fleet by at least six aircraft in 2009 and expand business in Russia and the Middle East. "Our new aircraft will be positioned in Milan where the demand is stronger," says ceo Mario Peralda, "but perhaps one will be dedicated to the south of Italy to serve southern customers."
Air Four also plans to operate from new bases. "Olbia, during summer time, will surely be an important point of departure in Italy," says Peralda. "Eastern markets are growing faster and we are planning to position new aircraft by creating operational bases in Russia and in Arabia where the Italian style has a strong appeal and we should attract further customers."
Peralda expects the delivery of two new Learjet 45s at the beginning of 2009. "Two managed aircraft will also join our fleet in the next few months, one light jet and one heavy jet, and we are in negotiations for two further aircraft," he adds.
The new arrivals will augment Air Four's large current fleet which includes a 13-seat Global Express, a Challenger 604, a seven-seat Hawker 400XP, an eight-seat Learjet 45, a six-seat Learjet 40, a seven-seat Learjet 31 and a five-seat Citation I.
"We own the only Bombardier service facility in the south of Europe," Peralda says. "Our charter fleet consists predominantly of Learjets and our customers are happy with the Learjet 40 and 45 as the range and cabin size are ideal for their typical needs."
Air Four, which has a presence on a virtual world (EBAN February 2008), began as a start-up project scheduled for launch during the second quarter of 2008. However the launch plans were adapted when an unspecified business aviation company in Italy came up for sale. "By entering the market in this way, we had the opportunity to start earlier and to remove a possible competitor," says Peralda. "We felt that, if we did not acquire the company, whoever did would become a competitor armed with the existing customer portfolio. So we started in May 2007 with a fleet of 12 aircraft, 50 per cent of them owned or leased and dedicated exclusively to the executive charter business. The rest of the fleet was divided between pure aircraft management and the management of aircraft belonging to third-party owners but used to service our charter demands as well. Our core business is executive charter but in addition we are proud to be the owners of the only FAA-certified maintenance and engineering centre in Italy, certified EASA and FAA, and the Bombardier service facility."
Marketing manager Leopoldo Guidi believes there are very good business opportunities in general in Europe but particularly in Italy.
Guidi points out: "Italy is strategically placed in the centre of the Mediterranean, it has a strong tourist appeal, and it has the advantage of being an intermediate point for east-bound flights to Russia and the Balkan region."
Charter demand continues to be 80 per cent for business but Guidi believes there is development potential in the luxury travel leisure sector.