Despite Brexit and a very grey London winter, the CJI conference this January was brimming with confidence and steely resolve.
THEY SAY that it’s the thought that counts. This is especially true when you return from a conference with a branded flash drive, power bank or socks. However, this January many children were happy to receive Bombardier-branded collie dog toys from parents coming back from Corporate Jet Investor London. Named Smoothie, Bombardier distributed them to highlight the smooth ride on its aircraft.
David Coleal, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, opened the conference with an inspiring session looking at how much the industry could grow if it can penetrate different markets which have not bought aircraft yet. His key focus was on accessibility, social responsibility and product desirability.
Gogo’s Lisa Peterson gave us a look into the future of connectivity – at 2021 when aviation as a whole will be connected. And a panel about ‘The Problem with People’ addressed gender diversity and the current pilot shortage.
VistaJet’s founder, Thomas Flohr, was certainly one of the optimists in the room, delivering a keynote speech about the lessons he’s learned in his 15 years in business aviation. He also gave a sneak preview of VistaJet’s business results, remaining poised and, as ever, composed.
Like the UK parliament, the Brexit panel was quite inconclusive in its findings. However, this is not really the fault of the participants. “We are not even being called to the table to get into any details,” said Marc Bailey, CEO of the British Business & General Aviation Association (BBGA). It was interesting to see, that when put to the room of business aviation professionals, only 17% said they would vote to leave.
Despite the then-imminent 59-day countdown to Brexit, 67% of the room felt optimistic about the coming year, and rated 2019 at an average 7.4 out of 10 for business.
The conference was not all about work though, and saw a lot of networking at the cocktail receptions hosted by JSSI, Vedder Price and Global Jet Capital; as well as Title Service, BBJ, Mente Group and UniCredit’s Dealmakers Dinner. Great things were especially heard about the casino-themed Flightcap drinks, hosted by The Registry of Aruba, and the sprawling historic pub tour. The JSSI-hosted cocktail reception also saw Bella’s Vintage Duo sing a soulful rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Stephen Friedrich of Embraer.
The last session of the conference focused on aircraft dealers and brokers. Brian Proctor, chair of the International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) and founder of Mente Group, outlined the initiatives the organisation for larger brokers is working on now. Not everyone agreed with the plans – especially smaller brokers – with Steve Varsano, founder of The Jet Business, suggesting that everyone should be required to have a showroom to join.