When the chief executives from the top three U.S. automakers flew private corporate jets to Washington in late 2008 to request bailout money from Congress, they ran into some turbulence.1 From a security perspective, however, they did the right thing. Put politics aside. And the national media frenzy that ensued. In a quiet but very important way, this much-hyped event raised an issue that’s enormously relevant right now.
As companies across industries – from financial services to telecommunications and manufacturing – struggle to translate fragile top-line revenue growth into stronger bottom-line profits, should they cut back on expense items such as executive use of private corporate jets? Maybe. And maybe not. That question depends on the company – and on many factors that stand outside the scope of this briefing. But the answer should always take into account considerations that extend beyond the typical business rationale to security issues that aren’t always immediately apparent to the CEO, CFO or the board – or to the company’s shareholders, for that matter.
Productivity and Efficiency Gains May Be Compelling Reasons – But They’re Only Part of the Picture
The use of private aircraft by businesses is both championed and disparaged by advocates and critics alike as an executive privilege. In many cases, it is – and, arguably, perhaps should be. But that’s beside the point. What should matter most is whether using corporate jets advances business objectives and shareholder interests. And in many cases, it does.
Business aviation can help companies:
- Reach multiple destinations quickly and efficiently;
- Increase executive productivity by allowing employees to meet, work and plan en route;
- Access communities with little or no airline service – which amount to ten times the number of communities (5,000 airports) served by commercial airlines (500 airports);
- Ensure flexibility in travel scheduling and the ability to take rapid advantage of opportunities as they arise and change;
- Remain in contact and communication for the duration of a flight – a critical factor for companies managing a rapidly changing situation; and,
- Avoid the often significant business impacts associated with commercial flight cancellations, delays, and re-booking difficulties as well as the business costs of failing to arrive on time for a key meeting.2
Addressing Security and Risk Management Priorities May Also Be Critical
Woven across these business factors, however, are a host of security issues that range from common-sense safety procedures to critical security best practices. In short, business aviation:
- Improves operational and industrial security: Using the corporate jet lessens the risk that proprietary and sensitive information will be compromised through loss or theft of a laptop or peripheral. It also provides a secure environment that allows executives to communicate without fear of eavesdropping, industrial espionage or physical threat.
- Facilitates the travel of armed executive protection specialists: Though licensed to carry firearms, these professionals are unable to travel armed on commercial flights.
- Provides the ability to bring along a wide range of protective equipment: This can include satellite phones, F.A.T. medical kits, portable oxygen, AEDs and supporting equipment (defibrillators), protective armor, portable panic alarm kits and portable technical security technology (CCTV and intrusion detection) as well as weapons and ammunition.
- Allows executives to enter or leave a country or regional jurisdiction quickly: When a crisis unfolds, a private plane allows executives to travel to the affected area immediately. Also, should the local environment on a foreign trip turn dangerous and the “safe house” prove unavailable, the corporate jet can provide a crucial haven until the crew can be located and the plane leaves the runway.
- Reduces or eliminates uncontrolled exposure to the general public or the press: This strategy is helpful when high profile executives or public issues are involved. But it can also help the executive protection team control the environment, filter all assets, packages and people seeking entry or access, monitor for suspicious circumstances and, if necessary, conduct counter-intelligence operations.
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