An interest in aircraft engineering quickly becomes a passion for private aviation.
When Gavin Kiggen, Vice President for Africa & Director of Aviation at ExecuJet, part of the Luxaviation Group, completed his military service, he noticed an opportunity for a career in the aviation sector. Subsequently, he berthed at South Africa Airways where he honed his skills assuming the role of a flight engineer. His over 29 year career in the aviation sector has seen Kiggen work “on aircraft such as Boeing 747s and Boeing 727s worldwide, whilst pursuing his pilot’s license”. According to an official statement from ExecuJet.
Kiggen enjoys the sterling reputation of a prestigious career in aviation, including flying for some of South Africa’s big name airline companies such as British Airways/Comcast, Safair, and Nationwide Airlines, from where he morphed his career into flight operations. For the past 13 years, Kiggen has been a member of the senior management team at ExecuJet, starting out as the group’s Aviation Services Manager in 2008. According to ExecuJet, “Kiggen refined the processes and procedures in terms of the regulations and implemented a full aircraft dispatch procedure, a first for General Aviation in South Africa. In addition, Gavin proactively got involved with supporting and growing ExecuJet’s FBO, Charter and Managed Aircraft business”.
Since operating as a company within the Luxaviation Group, ExecuJet has grown globally with FBOs, MROs, aircraft management and charter operations stretching across Australia and New Zealand, through Malaysia and Indonesia to Singapore and on to Tianjin and Beijing. In Africa it has bases at Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lagos, Nigeria – where it has dual ownership with a local Nigerian partner.
In this exclusive interview, Kiggen took a moment to share his experiences in the private aviation industry
When was your first time on a private jet?
First time I flew on a private jet was when I was with South African Airways and we flew from Oliver Tambo International Airport to Windhoek to recover a Boeing 737.
How did you get involved in private aviation?
Throughout my entire work career I have been involved in aviation. First in commercial avaition from 1989 to April 2008 and then from June 2008 till date I have been in Business Aviation.
What’s ExecuJet’s history in Africa?
ExecuJet, part of the Luxaviation Group, is a well-established and trusted general and business aviation company with over 25 years of expertise. ExecuJet’s African bases are located in South Africa at Lanseria International Airport near Johannesburg (FALA) and Cape Town International Airport (FACT); Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria (DNMM) as well as in Seychelles (FSIA) on the island of Mahé.
All locations offer a comprehensive range of services encompassing corporate aircraft charter, aircraft management and insurance, fixed base operations, aircraft sales, cargo charter, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), tours and safaris as well as full concierge services. The Nigerian facility offers fixed base operations as well as on-site customs and immigrations with a luxury hotel and aircraft maintenance services.
How has the market for private jet charter evolved since ExecuJet entered the region’s aviation space?
In Africa, the market for private charter has evolved into one of the fastest growing markets due to the growing demand in private charter travel. Chartering a business jet in Africa is most of the time the only practical time and cost-effective way of reaching various destinations. Private charter travel is simply a necessary business tool and should be understood as such.
How big a market is the region on a global scale?
Africa, as a region for business aviation, remains strong because of the vast distances required to travel. However, compared to, for instance, the American market, Africa is nowhere near the number of business aircraft in operation in that region.
Looking ahead, what are the emerging growth areas for the region’s private aviation industry?
There are new business opportunities emerging across the continent such as the HENRYs (High Earner, Not Rich Yet) in South Africa. The continent is also seeing more growth in the demand by affluent tourist for Safari travel.
Can you provide a picture of ExecuJet’s typical clients in the region?
ExecuJet’s typical clients includes companies, entrepreneurs, governments and VIPs.
What are your thoughts on the overall state of the African private aviation industry?
Many business jets operating in the region are nearing 20+ years in operation, and we see charter clients more and more requiring aircraft of a younger age. Also, from a compliance point of view, some of these aircraft do not comply with noise restrictions, limiting their operational capacity. Ultimately this is where the opportunity sits for aircraft sales and fleet renewals.
Where do you envisage the most exciting prospects at the moment?
The growth in the UAV market seems like a real opportunity, and ExecuJet can support our charter clients, to expand on our service offering, by assisting with making UAVs available for their respective businesses.
Is the concept of fractional ownership in the private aviation space a viable one?
ExecuJet has seen success in selling bulk charter hours to clients, as opposed to fractional ownership. Some aircraft owners formed their own partnerships; however, we have not seen fractional ownership as an opportunity within Africa.
How is technology helping you serve your clients?
With more technological advancements, we are now able to offer high speed Wi-Fi across our fleet which provides continuous high-speed connectivity for clients. There is also a mandate for ADS-B (Automatic Data Surveillance Broadcasting) to be installed in all business jets. This technology will assist in tracking aircraft using satellite signals rather than ground radar, transmitting essential information on location, altitude and airspeed via GPS with no manual input required.
What types of loyalty programs do you offer your clients?
ExecuJet offers a SimplyFly membership card program designed for companies or individuals who make regular use of private charter travel and want to secure a pricing and service structure. The program is tailored to fit the demand of each client but provide the same concept of convenience and flexibility. The program also provides a more time effective and convenient approach to chartering an aircraft.
What do you think most attributed to ExecuJet’s progress in the region?
All our charter aircraft comply with the latest regulatory requirements and offer the very best in onboard amenities and luxuries, reflecting our uncompromising commitment to safety and comfort.
A variety of ExecuJet’s fixed wing and rotary fleet ensures that we can offer aircraft to suit any mission, from medium-range light jets with short runway performance, ultra-long-range aircraft offering non-stop global capabilities, to short flights and flexible service for business professionals, to destinations with no airport.