INTERVIEW: Simon Geere on paving the way for sustainable private jet travel as new CEO of Farnborough Airport
The luxury travel guru tells Tempus about green initiatives and the critical role of business aviation in post-pandemic economic recovery
After joining Farnborough Airport as CEO last year, Simon Geere has big plans for the future of business aviation. Citing the sector as a key player in the UK’s economic recovery and a springboard for reducing carbon emissions, Geere hopes that the demand for business aviation will increase even further.
Being the largest private jet airport in the UK, Farnborough saw 32,000 movements and 62,000 travellers in 2019. However, like most businesses in the UK, the airport suffered a drop in activity at the end of March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, suffering a 40 per cent decrease in business.
But while the commercial aviation sector was devastated, private airports like Farnborough saw an increase during the second lockdown in November when travel for business was permitted by the government. Geere suggests that this increase in demand reflects the future of business aviation.
“For me, that increase in activity during the lockdown underlines the importance and critical nature of what Farnborough airport offers to the UK in terms of maintaining international connectivity and inward investment.
“And if you think about the post Brexit future and the economic recovery that's going to be required, an outward facing UK relies upon business aviation and airports like Farnborough, ” Geere adds.
But it’s not just the UK’s economy that will benefit from private airports, as CEO of the first business airport to be awarded carbon neutral status in 2018, Geere recognises the crucial role of the business aviation sector in helping to reduce carbon emissions.
“Business aviation offers a really unique opportunity for the aviation sector as a whole to grasp the sustainability agenda.
“The reason I say that is that our aircrafts are often the right size, i.e. they're smaller than big commercial aircrafts, meaning the new fuel technology and hydrogen powered electrification is all applicable to business aviation.”
With this opportunity to drive the transition to more sustainable travel, Geere predicts an increase in demand for business aviation.
“I think what's going to happen is that business aviation will be a catalyst for reducing the carbon emissions that we have presently. And I think because of that, demand for business aviation will start to increase and people will start to see it as a more viable way of travel.”
Although Geere remains optimistic about the future of business aviation in the climate change agenda, he acknowledges that Farnborough cannot take on the task alone.
“For business aviation to be the sustainable way to travel internationally would be fantastic, but it’s really an industry effort.
“We as an airport can't just make that happen, we have to work with aircraft manufacturers, engine designers and consider fuel technology and carbon offsetting,” says Geere.
Having been voted number one fixed-based operator outside of America by Aviation International News, Geere hopes that with the airport’s five star concierge service and 250,000 square foot temperature controlled hangarage, Farnborough will be London’s top choice for business aviation services.
“We want every private jet owner, customer and operator to say, ‘I want to use Farnborough Airport.’ And if we can get halfway there, then we will have achieved great things.”
In order to achieve this goal, Geere explains the importance of maintaining the core values that fulfil customer needs.
“We are a premium product, so we want to maintain that level of experience and service. We offer our customers efficiency and assurance.
“For many of our customers, their business lives, family lives and leisure lives are configured to international connectivity, often in locations which are really hard to get to by scheduled commercial services. Business aviation buys them time in a very busy life, ” adds Geere.
Factors that contribute to the airport’s efficiency include the use of technology to ensure a seamless experience with as few touch points as possible, as well as a pet travel scheme which makes travelling with furry companions a stress-free process.
Geere believes that Farnborough’s high level of service will allow the airport to reach a wider market of customers who are hoping to avoid the inconvenience of travelling via big commercial airports.
“More and more people are willing to pay the price to have that assurance and efficiency that allows them to depart from an airport without the hassle and aggravation of a big commercial airport.
“That assurance and value of time that is given from business aviation to customers, and especially those who used business aviation for the first time last summer, for example, I think that would have an enduring and lasting effect on our sector.”