Mediterranean trips with your bizjet
Pick your spots, plan early, observe rules, be security conscious.
By Grant McLaren
Santorini, pictured at left, is among the most popular destinations in the Mediterranean region. JTR (Santorini, Greece) offers a 6972 ft runway and full GA support services, although there's limited parking during the peak summer season so you may be faced with a drop and go scenario.
With its fine climate, enjoyable diversified cultures, delicious food and wonderful way of life, the Mediterranean region has been attracting visitors long before the dawn of business aviation. Today, congestion has become a particular challenge for bizav flyers hoping to secure parking, hotels and operating authorities during the summer season.
If you plan to head to JTR (Santorini, Greece), IBZ (Ibiza, Spain), FLR (Florence, Italy) or CAG (Cagliari, Italy) during peak season, especially over the weekends, complications are likely to arise. While it's usually possible to orchestrate short notice and last minute trips to this region, your options may be limited and/or you'll be facing drop and go scenarios.
"At many popular Mediterranean destinations you'll be dealing with PPRs, airport slots, permits, lack of overnight parking and crew accommodations that, if even available, can run several hundred dollars per night," says Universal Weather Master Trip Owner Larry Williams. "During the summer months it's always important to understand local regulatory requirements, limitations at particular airports, and to have contingency plans in place.
Even if you request airport slots and parking weeks or month in advance, they tend not to be confirmed until close to day of operation. By then you may have secured crew accommodations at particularly exorbitant rates, which are often non-refundable. It all can become a bit of a juggling act."
For many operators, the best solution is just to drop and reposition to a location with reliable overnight parking. "If you're flying to JTR or JMK (Mykonos, Greece) during the summer it's going to be very difficult to confirm overnight parking and crew accommodations," cautions Jeppesen ITP Account Specialist Jean Michel Sicaud. "Often, the better option is to plan a reposition to ATH (Athens, Greece), about a 45-minute flight away, where parking is plentiful."
French Riviera destinations including St Tropez, Cannes and Nice are perennially popular during peak season. CEQ (Mandelieu, France) is the closest airport to Cannes but has limited hours of operation, MTOW restrictions and limited overnight parking.
Challenges for GA ops to popular Mediterranean destinations during summer months have increased notably over recent years. When operating to IBZ during peak periods, operators need to be aware that confirmed parking can be rescinded at discretion of local airport authorities up to 3 hours prior to arrival.
"We had a case recently where everything for a stop at IBZ had been previously confirmed – slots, parking and crew accommodations – but parking was denied just hours before departure to Ibiza," relates Sicaud. "It ended up being an unpleasant outcome for everyone."
"Over the past year, France has discontinued customs/immigration services at 13 locations," notes Jeppesen Global Supervisor Vendor Relations Mark O'Carroll. "These customs and immigration closures include certain strategic locations that are popular with business aviation, including LTT (La Môle – St Tropez, France) and CTT (Le Castellet, France), a popular reliever airport for NCE (Nice, France).
For years CTT had been a great location for international arrivals, with plenty of reliever parking available for nearby events such as the Cannes International Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix. Operators must now plan to stop at a different location to clear customs and immigration."
Overnight parking can be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain at many popular Mediterranean destinations including NAP (Naples, Italy), JTR, JMK or PSA (Pisa, Italy). NCE, meanwhile, has its own issues with overnight parking availability and cost. At many locations you may be restricted to a drop and go with only 1 to 3 hours on the ground. And parking challenges will only compound if you operate larger equipment such as ACJs or BBJs.
"At IBZ, for example, the GA ramp is only large enough to accommodate midsized to larger business jets. Anything larger must be parked on the commercial side," explains O'Carroll. "This creates issues with parking confirmations and rescinding of confirmations you may have. Your success in being able to park larger aircraft at popular Mediterranean locations will depend on how much commercial traffic the airport is dealing with at the time."
Don't forget the European penchant for labor strikes, which often occur at the most inopportune times and close to major events and holiday periods. "The southern European region of the Mediterranean is prone to ATC and/or other strike activity," cautions World Fuel Mgr Supporting Services Rich Nath. "So be prepared for potential complications that can jump up from time to time, particularly at smaller airports. While a week or so prior notice is often provided for EU strike activity, this is not always the case. News of impending strikes may also be published, but strikes may not actually occur."
O'Carroll adds, "ATC and other labor strikes are always challenging, but the actual impact of the particular strike activity always varies. When one union strikes, ATC for example, neighboring unions often jump in and join the strike activity. These sympathy strikes compound operator challenges. In some cases, short notice strikes may be announced but then canceled last minute.
Best practice is to work with your international support provider (ISP) and monitor Eurocontrol NOTAMs. Try to understand what's occurring on a day to day basis, look at your options and consider how best to mitigate potential obstructions."
ISPs say that overflight and landing permits are not required for bizjet operations flying to popular northern Mediterranean island and coastal destinations. In most cases, however, landing permits are needed for charter operators. In the case of charter, the limiting factor, from the lead time and planning perspective, is often obtaining a required third country operator (TCO) certificate.
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