5 Insights from 2022
As a dramatic 2022 draws to a close, the team at Martyn Fiddler Aviation reflected on 2022 to see if we could find any insights or lessons that will help us going into 2023. Here are our top 5.
War and sanctions
The indefensible invasion by Russia into Ukraine in early 2022 had dramatic ramifications for the business aviation industry. Restricted flying for all Russian nationals across Europe, America and Australia together with asset seizures and sanctions has resulted in significant cuts to income streams for many in the business aviation industry.
Engagement of specialist legal counsel to understand the restrictions and how these apply between jurisdictions was at an all-time high. Attempts by some to circumvent the rules have resulted in fines, confiscations and more. Most recently seen in Malta, the aircraft operator, Emperor Aviation, was sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) along with eight related aircraft.
Media coverage of business aircraft and luxury yachts caught by the sanctions has been watched worldwide with many social media posters tracking and reporting asset movements whether in violation or not.
Despite hope the conflict would be resolved quickly, as 2022 draws to a close it would appear no easy resolution is in sight. Sanctions, restrictions and the damage to business aviation in Russia will likely only worsen in the short term. Business aviation should expect sanctions to be a continuing theme for our industry in 2023 and beyond.
Living with covid
For many 2022 was a step back towards normality, or at least a new version of normality. Kicking off with CJI London in February over 500 colleagues from around the world were eager to meet in person, catch up and generate new business. In May, following a two-year hiatus, EBACE saw over 12,000 visitors and over 300 exhibitors at Europe’s flagship business aviation event. Closer to home the Isle of Man Aviation Conference finally held celebrated its tenth anniversary in its twelfth year with bumper numbers of attendees and sponsors.
While caution remains, the desire to meet in person following two years of speaking via video screen has been a driver for sell-out ticket sales at all conferences during the year. However, questions have been asked whether the lessons of the global pandemic have been forgotten in the rush to reconnect.
Media scrutiny, unprecedented inflation and the need to be sustainable will all put pressure on business travel especially where results from trips are not guaranteed or easily won. The next few years may see a balancing between in-person events and video interactivity to develop relationships and get deals over the line. The team at Martyn Fiddler believe that face-to-face meetings and conferences will continue to be the preferred form of networking.
Sustainability and carbon neutrality
November 2022 saw hundreds of climate activists storm Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and sit in front of the wheels of aircraft to prevent them from leaving. The demonstrations in and around the airport were organised by environmental groups including Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion. Hundreds of other demonstrators in and around the airport’s main hall carried signs saying “Restrict aviation” and “More trains”. Greenpeace spokeswoman Dewi Zloch said “The rich are increasingly using private jets – the most polluting way of flying. That has to stop. We want fewer flights, more trains and a ban on unnecessary short flights and private jets”.
Business aviation is not the only industry to be placed in the spotlight by climate groups. It does however attract considerable media attention due to high profile aircraft owners. While many in the industry correct misleading media claims about emissions – business aviation only accounts for 0.2% of global CO2 output – some leaders are now saying it is not enough simply to be reactive in such situations.
In addition to needing a proactive approach to sustainability going forward, warnings have been made to those within the industry who react on social media to climate critics. This warning comes after posts from commentators on Linkedin regarding the Schiphol protests were taken as direct quotes from the industry by leading newspapers and media outlets. While the authors of the posts most likely did not think this would happen at the time of writing, this is the danger of the digital age.
Sustainability and reducing emissions has been at the forefront of every business aviation event in 2022. Continuing progress in 2023 hinges on being proactive in the messaging and mindful of how the industry presents itself to the rest of the world.
Lessons in Governance
The ramifications of corporate scandals from previous years caught up with many big businesses in 2022. The fallout from the dramatic collapse of Greensill Capital has caused significant damage to Credit Suisse, and lawsuits continue to hurt Boeing’s rehabilitation. KPMG received a multimillion-pound penalty in relation to its audit of Rolls-Royce, and Airbus faced a class-action lawsuit in the Netherlands regarding claims it failed to adequately disclose information about corruption at the firm.
Notwithstanding these scandals, the promotion of ESG (environment, social and governance) by prominent business leaders and high profile investors is at an all-time high. Further, there are regulatory and social initiatives to encourage better corporate governance around the board table internationally. Often the problem businesses experience with governance is implementation; businesses either don’t understand the benefits of good governance or consider lip service to governance sufficient to avoid scrutiny – ‘governance washing’.
We would all like to think that people will learn from previous scandals, but the fall of FTX, the crypto marketplace, in a manner similar to Bernie Madoff’s scandal twenty years ago shows that there will always be unseen dirty corporate laundry. Of course Netflix now has plenty of holiday season options to watch real life corporate fraud and deception while we try and prepare for 2023!
Booming values and looming recession
2022 saw the continuation of increasing aircraft prices and first-time buyers, and decreasing inventory globally. As a result manufacturers are increasing production and the second hand market has seen unprecedented demand. Many aircraft owners have sold their aircraft at a profit and then struggled to find a replacement both due to high price and scarcity. Some have also sold their aircraft because of the public pressure on sustainability and environmental preservation and then turned to the charter market for their travel needs.
Q4 of 2022 has seen a small amount of stabilisation however as the world steps towards the precipice of another recession, the question will be which nations and industries will suffer most. Peaks and troughs are nothing new for business aviation, however, 2023 will expose which businesses have learnt lessons from the crazy highs and dismal lows of the last decade. Have businesses put in place mechanisms to safeguard themselves as demand diminishes?
While a recession may benefit those well placed to see opportunities and bargains, many businesses, both new and established, will suffer. Here at Martyn Fiddler Aviation, we believe that economic gains will shift during 2023 - as they do in each recession period - and those that benefit will look to business travel to further their returns.
Business aviation can now be considered post-pandemic. However, despite the relief at leaving Covid behind, we have entered a new era where events – war, sanctions and recession – which we all thought were confined to history are back.
At Martyn Fiddler Aviation, our conclusion at the end of 2022 is that we have to expect the unexpected. We can only face the future if we have a flexible (rather than fixed) mindset.
See you in 2023!
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