10.04.2014

BlueSky: What makes a good FBO

 By Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, chief executive, London Executive Aviation (LEA).

The importance to companies like ours of a good fixed-based operator (FBO) cannot be underestimated. We rely on the professionalism and standards of all third-party companies to ensure the LEA passenger experience is consistent throughout every journey. The FBOs we utilise must reflect the high quality customer service our passengers receive from LEA, their pilot and crew.

FBOs provide many of the key aeronautical services we rely on daily such as fuelling and hangaring.  There are also many services for the crew and passengers which we depend on, such as a VIP lounge with complimentary Wi-Fi, extended restroom facilities and a food and drink offering, whether it’s vending or a restaurant – we don’t (always) expect to be able to sit down for a full meal, but we certainly do rate a good selection of refreshments. As part of a longer flight, the crew often requires weather information and flight planning areas, aviation supplies and in-flight comfort items through to accommodation and concierge services.

However, what is the ‘X Factor’ that makes us want to keep returning time and time again? How can FBOs go ‘above and beyond’ to supersede our expectations?

From LEA’s perspective, we’ve found that FBOs adopting a boutique-hotel style approach are onto a winning formula. Those demonstrating additional investment in their ambience, service and staff training provide us with a customer-oriented workforce with local knowledge and expertise which is essential to our crew and passengers. A team of dedicated professionals on-hand to look after hotel accommodation, catering and limousine services is the result of consistent, high-quality customer service.

LEA’s deputy chief pilot and Legacy fleet manager, Captain Glyn Anderson, regularly visits FBOs worldwide, with strong views on which best meet LEA’s expectations. He knows our passengers want to spend a minimal amount of time on the ground waiting for a flight to depart, or on arrival waiting for customs, immigration and transport. The passenger experience of an FBO, and implicitly LEA, will be enhanced by seamless handling and facilitation. A good FBO will be proactive from the outset, commencing with LEA’s Operations department and continuing with the flight crew.

Glyn relies on teamwork between an operator and the FBO. FBO staff members need to be contactable at every stage and LEA needs to be confident that any request is being managed and progressed efficiently. A good FBO will anticipate our requirements, and the sooner that transpires, the sooner a longer standing relationship will develop. Glyn also rates those FBOs which are proactive, in the right place at the right time, adding value to the customer experience. Baggage that is despatched to the aircraft expeditiously, prior to boarding but without delaying passengers, certainly demonstrates best practice. The same applies on arrival with suitable transport for both passengers and baggage.

Our operations manager, Leigh Westwood, is dedicated to using the FBOs which best reflect LEA’s own executive services. At LEA, in addition to business leaders, we fly royalty, heads of state and celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and sport. As such, Leigh demands a discreet service from our FBOs, with exceptional customer service and well-presented staff. In-house security and immigration services are often key, with timely turnaround on communications and particularly slot bookings.

We like to work with people who are passionate about demonstrating the same exemplary service as LEA. Our passengers will not necessarily differentiate between LEA and the FBO, so we need partners who will work with us to achieve this seamless integration of services.

Published in: BlueSky 10 April 2014

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