Federal Program Impacts Business Aviation Says Air Partner, Inc.

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Ruling on corporate jets could have impact on stock and competition for publicly traded companies, as well as the private aviation industry.

The lifting of BARR now eliminates the much-needed anonymity in business travel used for corporate strategy. For publicly traded companies, revealing sensitive flight information can impact stock activity.

In December of 2008 the non profit organization, Pro Publica filed a request to the FAA to publicly release a list of blocked private jet tail numbers under the Freedom of Information Act.

After the 15 month legal battle (District Court of Washington D.C. -- 1:2009-CV-01089), the court ruled in favor of Pro Publica and deemed that the previously blocked list of tail numbers was public information under the argument that national airspace is subsidized by taxpayers.

Overturning the 10-year old BARR could have unexpected negative implications for businesses operating in the U.S. that own jets. The business aviation lobby (NBAA) has argued publicizing such information could impact stocks or competition if rival companies track flight information to gather data on potential deals.

Air Partner, Inc. (AIP), a global leader in general aviation with 22 offices worldwide, believes that keeping flight information for publicly traded companies private is essential for protecting strategic corporate movements. President Philip Mathews comments, "The lifting of BARR now eliminates the much-needed anonymity in business travel used for corporate strategy. For publicly traded companies, revealing sensitive flight information can impact stock activity."

Before the ruling, private jet owners could send a BARR (Blocked Aircraft Registration Request) form to the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) requesting that their jet tail numbers be blocked from public viewing. The NBAA would then in turn request the FAA to keep these particular tail numbers private from certain programs that enable flight tracking.

Upon finally receiving the list of previously blocked tail numbers, Pro Publica began outing government officials, college athletic teams, and various corporations, who they felt were using the system improperly. While some individuals have abused flying privately (businesses, public office, charities etc.) it still does not negate the fact that public access to corporate jet information may unfairly compromise confidential business strategies.

This may be another blow to struggling private jet sales, as companies could be hesitant to purchase a jet knowing its activity can be tracked. Instead, companies may look to charter services. Charter companies are not required to disclose their client or passenger lists, therefore tracking the flight numbers on chartered business jets would not compromise sensitive information associated with business travel.

Corporations are using and will continue to use business jets. UBS Business Jet update says business jet traffic was up 7% in the 4th quarter, and forecasts an 8-10% increase for 2010. Additionally, many business jet flights are into small regional airports. A 2009 survey of companies that use general aviation for business travel found that 47% of business jet flights were into airports with infrequent or no scheduled air service and 30% were into secondary airports. Having the ability to track a corporation’s flight activity, particularly into small, low-traffic airports can make business strategies vulnerable.

Still, aircraft charter (as opposed to ownership) remains a protected means of conveyance. With the steady improvement of the air charter business, Air Partner believes that with this announcement, businesses that fly privately will consider increasing their air charter usage, which has already seen a steady recovery.


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Arielle Der Hagopian
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