SECOND TO NONE

Portugal 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

From a much-needed niche to a global player, Netjets has utilized Portugal's competitive advantages to bring value to the country and the entire continent.

Marta de la Rocha
BIOGRAPHY
Marta de la Rocha studied journalism at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, and specialized in marketing at the Catholic University of Portugal, in Lisbon. After starting her career working in the Public Relations team at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, in 2005, she joined NetJets. In 2012, she was appointed as Vice President for NetJets Europe, looking after all sales activity in Spain & Portugal. In 2018 she took over the role of Regional Vice President for Southern Europe.

What have been some of Netjets' milestones in its 22 years of operations in Portugal?

In hindsight, establishing Netjets in Portugal was a highly successful decision, as evident from the fact that the company's entire operations are now run from Portugal; the synergies we have had here have been outright fantastic. At present, all our aircraft are registered as “CS," which is the Portuguese registration. The local talent has been equally paramount to our success. Ever since we started our operations in Portugal we have felt at home; the country is receptive to internationalism and the Portuguese speak foreign languages eloquently and are very hospitable. Our European operations and training center are based in Lisbon, and at present we have around 500 employees working here.

How would you assess the European business environment?

The private aviation concept was born in the US, and it is a common business tool there. Although the US is the pioneer and leader of the industry, Europe is close behind. Over time, people have come to understand that if a company wants to be quick, efficient, and capable of reacting at the pace demanded by the business world, it needs a solution such as ours. Quite remarkably, even though shared ownership is currently a popular model across various industries, NetJets pioneered this concept introducing this approach in the aviation industry over 30 years ago.

What strategies does the company want to develop in the medium term?

We are well established in more mature markets, and there is huge demand in terms of market penetration in smaller economies as well. Similarly, NetJets is the perfect solution for companies looking for a robust and reliable travel solution. Our work is to continue growing our market penetration in Europe. There is a natural maturity cycle, and some European countries have yet to reach the level of acceptance this type of service has witnessed in countries such as the US or Brazil, where executive aviation has become a necessary tool. However, we still see huge growth potential in Europe for NetJets.
How do you recruit human talent in Portugal?
Approximately 60% of the staff members in the office are Portuguese. We try to hire the highest level of talent among our crew members. All pilots join NetJets as Co-Pilots and are required to have a minimum of 1,500 hours experience under their belts. Moreover, the company requires captains to have over 3,000 hours flight time, and our training is double that of the industry standard. So, we not only try to recruit the right people, but we give them all the tools to remain the best in aviation. Importantly, our pilots only fly one aircraft type because we want their reactions to be instinctive and for them to be fully knowledgeable of the aircraft they are flying.

What's your outlook for the Portuguese and European aviation sectors, and do you have any expansion plans?

Portugal is going through a special time. Of late, all the right pieces have come together to create a special opportunity, and Portugal has launched some initiatives that have made the country appealing internationally. Indeed, the country is very innovative and forward thinking. Some of the highlights are the start-up movement we are currently witnessing, the government's actions and initiatives, and the welcoming nature and openness of Portuguese people to other nationalities and cultures. Moving forward, we are curious to see how changes across Europe will affect Portugal. Rest assured, the opportunity for growth is there. We are already witnessing growth.

What is the global value of this market?

We are now the safest and largest player in the global market. We have 700 aircraft worldwide, which makes us the fifth-largest airline in the world, but because we focus exclusively on private aviation, we are the biggest in the sector. These figures allow for a genuinely attractive alternative to the solutions available in the market; we offer all the guarantees and advantages of owning a private plane, but with none of the inconveniences. Added to which, we guarantee an available plane within 10 hours, have an unwavering focus on safety, and very demanding service expectations, each of which are possible thanks to the economy of scale we have created through 50 years of experience. We stand second to none in the industry.