Meridian is interviewed by Bergen Record Newspaper

Some business owners are talking about doing more private air travel, but so far it’s just talk, according to top managers at Teterboro’s oldest charter service.

“We’ve seen some optimism in our customers, but the numbers are still pretty off;” said Dennis O’Connell, president of Teterboro-based Meridian Air Charter, a division of the Meridian Cos.

“Companies are still seeing few opportunities and few reasons to go to York, Pennsylvania, or wherever,” said Andrew Ladouceur, director of sales and client services for Meridian.

Meridian, which has been at Teterboro since 1958, has cut staff and pay this year to adjust to about a 30 percent drop-off in flights, they said. The head count is down about 10 percent to 71 employees in the so-called fixed-base operation — a fuel and rest stop for private-plane passengers and crew. The workforce was trimmed about 5 percent in the charter-services division that employs 100 people. Many employees’ workdays were cut to 7.5 hours from eight, and salaries were reduced by 10 percent across the board.

It is not the only company at Teterboro to reduce staff. In April, French business jet maker Dassault Falcon, which has its U.S. headquarters at Teterboro, laid off 25 from its 400-member work force there.

Teterboro, one of the nation’s busiest private jetports, handled 30,343 flights in the first quarter, down 27.4 percent from 41,802 in the first three months of 2008, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Meridian’s fuel sales are down 38 percent from a year ago, not only because of fewer flights but also because aircraft owners are being more cost conscious and are avoiding New York metro area fuel prices when possible by filling up at other airports.

Business jet travel plummeted in the fall when global markets were thrown into chaos by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, O’Connell said

“When September turned dark, it really turned dark here,” he said.

Despite the downturn, the company has “no regrets” about opening a big new terminal and hangar two years ago, O’Connell said. In 2006 it became an independent fixed-base operator, ending a 20-year franchise agreement with Texas-based Million Air.

“We are biting the bullet a little, but we want to be well-positioned to gin things up again,” said Stephen Chandoha, president of general aviation aircraft service. The company’s growth had been limited by space constraints. However, since the new facilities opened, it has doubled the size of its charter fleet. The fixed base operation was ranked first at Teterboro and fifth nationally in a recent survey by Aviation International News.

“Our employees have made a lot of sacrifices but they still manage to win recognition for their performance,” Chandoha said.

O’Connell said he is confident there will be a full recovery in business jet travel but it may take a year or two. “It tends to follow the economy,” he said.

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The International Air Transport Association this week revised its 2009 airline loss forecast downward because of continued weakness in premium business travel and the impact of the swine flu. Losses worldwide are now expected to total $9 billion, up from a March forecast of $4.7 billion. Passenger traffic may fall 8 percent. In North America, airlines will likely lose $1 billion this year. The group previously predicted a modest $100 million profit for North American carriers.

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Continental Airlines recently withdrew a plan to end daily round-trip flights between Ithaca, N.Y., and Newark Liberty International Airport, at the urging of Sen. Charles Schumer and Utica area residents and businesses.

doing more private air travel, but so far it’s just talk, according to top managers at Teterboro’s oldest charter service.

 

 

There are business travelers at Teterboro, but not as many as officials would like. First-quarter flights were down 27.4 percent from a year ago.

“We’ve seen some optimism in our customers, but the numbers are still pretty off;” said Dennis O’Connell, president of Teterboro-based Meridian Air Charter, a division of the Meridian Cos.

“Companies are still seeing few opportunities and few reasons to go to York, Pennsylvania, or wherever,” said Andrew Ladouceur, director of sales and client services for Meridian.

Meridian, which has been at Teterboro since 1958, has cut staff and pay this year to adjust to about a 30 percent drop-off in flights, they said. The head count is down about 10 percent to 71 employees in the so-called fixed-base operation — a fuel and rest stop for private-plane passengers and crew. The workforce was trimmed about 5 percent in the charter-services division that employs 100 people. Many employees’ workdays were cut to 7.5 hours from eight, and salaries were reduced by 10 percent across the board.

It is not the only company at Teterboro to reduce staff. In April, French business jet maker Dassault Falcon, which has its U.S. headquarters at Teterboro, laid off 25 from its 400-member work force there.

Teterboro, one of the nation’s busiest private jetports, handled 30,343 flights in the first quarter, down 27.4 percent from 41,802 in the first three months of 2008, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Meridian’s fuel sales are down 38 percent from a year ago, not only because of fewer flights but also because aircraft owners are being more cost conscious and are avoiding New York metro area fuel prices when possible by filling up at other airports.

Business jet travel plummeted in the fall when global markets were thrown into chaos by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, O’Connell said

“When September turned dark, it really turned dark here,” he said.

Despite the downturn, the company has “no regrets” about opening a big new terminal and hangar two years ago, O’Connell said. In 2006 it became an independent fixed-base operator, ending a 20-year franchise agreement with Texas-based Million Air.

“We are biting the bullet a little, but we want to be well-positioned to gin things up again,” said Stephen Chandoha, president of general aviation aircraft service. The company’s growth had been limited by space constraints. However, since the new facilities opened, it has doubled the size of its charter fleet. The fixed base operation was ranked first at Teterboro and fifth nationally in a recent survey by Aviation International News.

“Our employees have made a lot of sacrifices but they still manage to win recognition for their performance,” Chandoha said.

O’Connell said he is confident there will be a full recovery in business jet travel but it may take a year or two. “It tends to follow the economy,” he said.

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