When Aviabel was founded in 1935, unmanned aircraft were yet to be invented, and the general aviation sector was still in its infancy. Through its long history, it has accompanied the ongoing commercialization of aviation and its development as a key method of transport for both passengers and freight.
Today, the company offers a wide portfolio of insurance products covering the entire value chain. “We insure all risks in the aviation industry from aircraft construction to airport facilities as well as the aircraft in the sky and on the ground,” outlines Chief Executive Officer Cécile Coune. “We act as both insurer and reinsurer. For major airlines we also act as a coinsurer.”
The huge sums involved in insuring the fleets of major carriers means that the risk has to be spread between several insurers.
Aviabel prefers to focus on the general aviation market and aircraft carrying up to 60 passengers. This sector can be divided into commercial general aviation for aircraft carrying 20 to 60 passengers of the type generally used for regional commercial flights; corporate general aviation, which refers to aircraft carrying a maximum of 19 passengers and which are used for business or commercial purposes, and light general aviation, which covers aircraft carrying a maximum of eight or nine passengers used mainly for sports aviation.
Within these categories Aviabel covers fixed wing aircraft with reciprocating turbine or jet engines, helicopters with reciprocating or turbine engines, gliders and hot air balloons.
“Anyone who wants to take to the sky in a private or commercial aircraft must have insurance for the aircraft and its crew, the passengers and any third party damages it may cause,” explains Ms. Coune. “However, there are other parties involved that also require insurance. Ground crew, for example, need to be insured against liabilities arising out of mistakes or accidental damage. It is a complicated chain of liability, and we help our customers plot a route through it.”
This chain extends right back to the suppliers of individual components used in the manufacture of the aircraft. Aviabel offers these companies insurance cover based on the sensitivity of the parts they make.
“Critical manufacturers are those that supply the aircraft body, landing equipment, electronics, avionics and navigation systems while non-critical manufacturers supply smaller components,” explains Ms. Coune. “Aviabel specializes in these kinds of risks and acts as the lead insurer so that customers have a single point of contact and an expert on hand.”
Another key part of the chain is the airports. These hives of activity require equally wide-ranging third party liability cover for the many behind-the-scenes activities such as air traffic control, baggage handling, aircraft maintenance and fuel storage.
Many of Aviabel’s advisors are ex-pilots and have an in-depth understanding of the industry. “Although we consult with clients, we do not sell the insurance directly but use a network of insurance brokers,” says Ms. Coune.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, the company has an 80% share of the market; however, its client base is international with customers around the globe. “We work together with local brokers who know the market, and we offer the technical expertise,” says Ms. Coune. “At present, we are looking at developing the Latin American market and have already established useful contacts in Brazil as one of the powerhouse economies in the region.”
Aviabel sees its core strength in the fact that it operates exclusively in the aviation sector. “We are specialists in this field and can offer a wealth of experience and knowledge,” insists Ms. Coune. “Decision-making is a rapid process, and customers can generally expect a tailored offer within 24 hours of making an enquiry. We also act quickly in the event of a claim, ensuring that compensation is paid out quickly. We are also very innovative as our new cover for aerial drones shows.”
Aviabel sees an important part of its future in Asia and the Middle East. The rapidly growing economies of countries in the region will be accompanied by a rise in domestic flights of the kind in which Aviabel specializes.
“Despite targeting growth in export markets, our core business will remain in Europe,” concludes Ms. Coune.