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by Basil Gamper, Zurich FBO Manager
The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, might be the single most important gathering in the world. This year, the resort town nestled in the Swiss Alps will welcome more than 2,500 leaders of state and industry, thinkers, and innovators as they come together to tackle the most urgent challenges facing the planet.
Davos also represents the pinnacle of private aviation, as the demand for security, confidentiality and impeccable service are all at their highest. For ExecuJet, it’s a chance to showcase what we do every day. But it’s hardly business as usual.
The biggest challenge of Davos stems from sheer demand: The forum presents a full month’s worth of traffic in a single week. We expect even higher numbers of aircraft this year compared to previous years, during the peak days of January 18 through January 24, 2016. Meeting that demand is one thing; meeting it without sacrificing the standard of service our VIP customers expect is another. But we’ve been doing just that since 2003, the year we handled the first aircraft for invitees to the forum.
Covering the Bases
Unlike other operators, ExecuJet operates two FBOs for WEF passengers – at our fixed Zurich FBO and at Dübendorf Airport (LSMD), the military airport just 5nm north of Zurich, which we secure for necessary overflow traffic due to the WEF each year. Each of these locations requires a wide range of services, from auxiliary power to janitorial services. Outsourcing them to third-party providers might make Davos week easier, but it would also hinder our ability to ensure the highest level of service throughout our clients’ experience, of which the flight itself is just one part. Thanks to our size, we’re able to relocate experienced staff from other European bases to help at Zurich and Dübendorf during the WEF. Every staff member receives extensive training on local differences in facilities, equipment and airport restrictions.
More Planes, Less Complexity
A key development this year will enable us to meet the Davos challenge more smoothly than ever. Although we expect more aircraft than last year (and have added parking spaces accordingly), the number of aircraft movements will actually decrease. That’s because ExecuJet can now provide full passenger handling, customs, and immigration at both Zurich and Dübendorf, as well as helicopter transfers from either base to Davos and back, compared to prior years when more shuffling between facilities was required. During a week of intense communication and collaboration streamlining such processes can make a big difference for our customers.
Many WEF visitors are repeat customers, and many of these are US-based. We contact directly these repeat customers as soon as Zurich Airport slot allocations for the WEF become available (in November) and Handling requests are then received immediately by the ExecuJet team.
Each year for Davos, our customers include many world leaders and this year’s edition of the event should be no exception. ExecuJet will provide numerous Head of State flights during the forum, each of which will require specific handling and the ability to accommodate unique requests. For example, important delegations have been known to count the number of stairs down from an aircraft into the FBO lounge. Thus accuracy and precision are paramount. Local representatives may need to know every detail of the aircraft and procedures, or request backups even for the most reliable equipment. As with all the other demands of Davos, it’s a level of detail and assurance we’ve grown accustomed to. But we still enjoy rising to the challenge every year.