Business Aircraft Operations to Southern France: Part 2 – Operating Considerations
This is a post by author Isabelle Canton. Isabelle is the senior Universal Aviation representative – South of France for Universal Aviation France, which has an aircraft ground handling facility in Paris, Le Bourget. Isabelle is an expert on business aircraft operations in southern France and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, titled "Business Aircraft Operations to Southern France: Part 1 – Airport Considerations ."
Airport slots, Prior Permissions Required (PPRs), aircraft parking, and hotel/local transport issues must be considered when planning business aviation operations to the south of France during peak season. While last-minute and short-notice trips to the French Riviera during summer are almost always possible, advance planning is beneficial. It’s best to utilize the expertise of your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler as early as possible in the planning process in order to coordinate preferred aircraft parking and hotel options to help avoid day-of-operation issues.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Airport slots/PPRs
Airport slots and PPRs should be requested as soon as a firm schedule is known. Toulon (LFTH) has defined minimum PPR lead times: minimum lead time is four hours in the case of domestic flights from within France, 24 hours if you’re operating in/out of Schengen areas, and 48 hours when operating from non-Schengen countries. However, there are no specific airport slots/PPRs lead times for LFMD – except during the Cannes Film Festival, when LFMD requires slots and PPRs. During peak season, it’s recommended that airport slots/PPRs be requested one to two months in advance in order to secure aircraft parking priority. Although parking will not be confirmed until close to day of operation, requests are processed on a first-come-first-served basis. In the case of Figari (LFKF), airport authorities prefer airport slots requests to be submitted at least 48 hours prior to the estimated time of arrival, although they may process short-notice requests on a case-by-case basis.
2. Long-term aircraft parking
For many locations you may request long-term or extended aircraft parking, but approval will be at the discretion of airport authorities. Note that longer-term parking is particularly expensive at Nice (LFMN) as it’s charged on an escalating scale, depending on how long you stay. For this reason you may want to consider repositioning your aircraft if passengers are staying in the Nice area for any length of time. Le Castellet (LFMQ) is a good parking alternate for LFMN with lower costs, extended stays possible, and hangar space available for transient operations. Other alternate long-term parking options, for the general area, include: Avignon (LFMV), Nimes (LFTW), and Montpellier (LFMT) .
3. General aircraft parking considerations
During the off season in the south of France, there are generally no aircraft parking limitations at any airport, unless there’s work going on airside. In 2013, for example, construction work was going on at the LFMN K ramp area, and this created issues for General Aviation (GA) parking. Be aware that aircraft parking, particularly long-term parking, can be very expensive in the south of France, and these high rates apply year-round.
4. Crew hotel options
Hotel availability can be an issue during peak season in the south of France as operators are competing with high tourism demand. It’s best to begin sourcing crew accommodations months in advance for the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix period. Area hotels routinely sell out during this period, prices are very high, cancellation policies are strict, and in many cases reservations are non-refundable, with minimum stay requirements. Crew rooms may cost as much as 800-1000 USD per night in the Nice/Cannes area during the film festival period. Few accommodation options that are closeby are available for short-notice requests, and any remaining rooms may be a few hours outside of the city. In many cases, particularly for last-minute operations, it may be best to reposition aircraft/crew to LFMQ
5. Local transport considerations
It’s recommended to book local transport well in advance to obtain best options and preferred vehicle types. At least one week advance notice is recommended for pre-paid transport (car with driver) bookings. It’s best to avoid rental vehicles during peak high season as local traffic congestion is heavy, parking is limited, and you’ll need to pay cash for toll roads.
6. Local strikes may impact your operation
Local strikes continue to occur in southern France, and these range from short-term air traffic control work stoppages to assorted train and truck strikes. It’s important to monitor this, via your ground handler, as local strikes may impact your trip plans, resulting in having to operate to an alternate airport.
7. Helicopter transfer options
Due to extremely high road congestion in the French Riviera region during peak season and during special event periods, helicopter transfers should be considered. Repositioning from LFMN to Monaco by helicopter is a five-minute flight compared to 45-60 minutes by road and, in many cases, using a helicopter is cheaper than pre-paid surface transport for crew transfers (cheaper rates are not available for passengers). For helicopter transfers to St. Tropez, be aware that the only public heliport is outside the city, and you may still face a 30-minute drive from the helipad to central St. Tropez. Best practice is to try arranging the use of a private helipad, right in St. Tropez, and your ground handler can assist with that.
8. General operating tips
During peak season, particularly at busier airports in the region, it’s best to arrange jet fuel uplifts and aircraft services on arrival, as this may help avoid day-of-departure delays and issues. While major aviation fuel cards are generally accepted in this region, it’s best to forward a fuel release in advance – particularly when operating to LFMQ. For operations to LFMN, crew members should always carry their passports and crew IDs, as these two items will always be needed in order to access your aircraft.
Keep in mind that there are often several moving parts to the puzzle, in terms of orchestrating successful peak-season operations to the south of France. You’ll need to confirm crew accommodations, which may be expensive and non-refundable, early in the process even though you may not have aircraft parking confirmed until just prior to day of operation. Operating to the French Riviera during peak season is a time when you need the expertise of both your 3rd-party provider and your local ground handler.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to southern France, contact me at email@example.com.