Fuel Shortages Hit Europe’s BizAv Market

Reduced availability of jet-A tied to truck driver shortage.

The Cessna Citation Mustang is an economical platform to connect major metro areas in Europe. [Courtesy: GlobeAir]

The reduced availability of jet-A has struck home in Europe, with turbine charter operators feeling the ramifications of a lack of drivers, and other logistical challenges, precipitated by not only the current war in Ukraine but with ties back to Brexit and the labor shortages that have followed in the transportation of goods around the European Union and U.K.

In an interview with FLYING, Bernhard Fragner, CEO and founder of GlobeAir, related the challenges that his company has faced in the past few weeks as summer charter travel ramps up in Europe. 

“We are just in the beginning of this cascade,” he said. 

GlobeAir is a provider of jet charter services in Europe, with its primary base in Hörsching, Austria, and other bases in the U.K., France, and other countries in the EU.

GlobeAir’s Mission

GlobeAir flies 25 Cessna Citation Mustangs, and the business is unique in that those jets are wholly owned by the company, which conducts roughly 15,000 flights each year. The routes take advantage of the Mustang’s sweet spot: short hauls, between one and two hours in length, and usually 600 nm or less. “With this, the main metros are connected,” Fragner said.

“We are just in the beginning of this cascade.”

Bernhard Fragner, CEO and founder of GlobeAir

In recent weeks, GlobeAir pilots have reported significant challenges in getting the jet-A they need to fulfill the full schedule. 

“The truck drivers are the problem,” said Fragner, “and it is really a U.K. problem, because a lot of the truck drivers were from Ukraine.” 

Also, Fragner pointed to low pay pricing potential drivers out of the market: “In general, the truck drivers are so underpaid,” exacerbating the problem. 

Lack of full fuel availability initially registered “at various U.K. airports, particularly in the north, including big airports even, like Manchester,” he said. Fragner’s team has also seen issues in the south of France, and he expects that soon they will see operational limitations in Italy. “We are just in the beginning of the travel season and this will be a very challenging travel season…Palma, Sardinia, they are all remote places, islands,” and there are few options for getting the fuel there.

Mitigation Plans

So, how is GlobeAir mitigating the effects on the company’s operations? “We limit our number of flights we can do per day, and we raised the prices,” Fragner said, and they have communicated to their regular customers what to expect. “We need the bookings weeks ahead now, then we can properly plan—we need way more lead time, more planning horizon.” 

As the summer marches on, he anticipates things will deteriorate further. “Normally, the peak rush happens in July; now it is already May, and we have stress on the system.” FBOs need to plan too, as they are not generally able to contract shipments of jet-A without significant lead time, just as it has been in the U.S.

Fragner’s not alarmist about the situation: “We don’t see a cutoff, just pain points [as a result of] the labor shortage… I see more and more shortages coming because of the lack of personnel across the board, such as ATC, security.”

“The supply chain is not working,” when it comes to the labor needed to move goods.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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