“Let me be straight with you. What I'd rather have is an airplane. We just had a third kid. I don't like flying commercial. I like to take my family to Hawaii. When I go east, I'd like to have pilots I know. ”
The World's Best FBOs
Our survey of ground-support facilities turns up the top performers.
Fixed-base operations, commonly known as FBOs, have come a long way since their beginnings as nondescript trailers and shacks alongside airport taxiways. Many have morphed into well-equipped, stylishly decorated facilities that, for passengers on corporate and private aircraft, often offer a first impression of a town or city.
While many airports have just one FBO, some have several, providing airplane operators with a choice. The vast majority of the several thousand or so FBOs in the U.S. are single-location businesses but some chains—such as Signature Flight Support, Landmark Aviation, Atlantic Aviation and Million Air—operate facilities at dozens of airports across the country or even abroad.
FBOs provide shelter for aircraft and such services as fueling and deicing. Some also offer a gamut of amenities for passengers, including concierges, audiovisual-equipped conference rooms and business centers with wireless printers; for pilots there are often flight-planning facilities, “snooze rooms” and courtesy cars.
To determine which locations deliver the best customer experience, BJT’s sister publication, Aviation International News, annually asks readers to rate FBOs they’ve used over the previous 12 months. This year, AIN received nearly 12,000 evaluations from subscribers who collectively deal with FBOs in 91 countries.
These readers rated the facilities from 1 to 10 in five categories:
Line service—the competence of the workers who meet the airplane on the ramp and service it.
Passenger amenities—the quality of lounges and conference rooms as well as availability of ground transportation.
Pilot amenities—the quality and availability of pilots’ lounges, flight-planning facilities, snooze rooms, crew showers, entertainment and recreation possibilities and complimentary crew cars.
Facilities—cleanliness, comfort, upkeep and convenience of the location in general.
Customer service—friendliness and professionalism of the customer reps, their familiarity with the local area and their assistance with reservations and catering.
The 25 locations that constituted the top 20 percent in the 2014 survey all scored at least 9.0 overall, while those in the top 5 percent earned a 9.4 or better.
This year’s No. 1 FBO in the Americas is AirFlite Aviation Services at Southern California’s Long Beach Airport. Owned by Toyota and home to the automaker’s North American flight department, AirFlite perennially garners high scores from AIN readers for its passenger amenities and meticulously maintained facilities. The FBO has occupied the same building for 22 years and “it’s a continual remodeling cycle,” says general manager John Tary. Last year’s projects included updating and remodeling the location’s two conference rooms, which seat 12 and 25 people, respectively. On tap is a $100,000 redesign of the customer-service desk.
European businesses once again dominate the list of high-scoring FBOs outside the Americas, and as in the past several years, the FBO at London-area Farnborough Airport occupies the No. 1 position. Owned and operated by worldwide aviation-services provider Tag Aviation, it is home to 65 business jets ranging from a Beechcraft Premier to an Airbus ACJ319, which are sheltered in 240,000 square feet of hangar space. The airport, also owned and operated by Tag, is one of only a few in Europe that are dedicated to business aviation, and it’s poised for growth: it handles approximately 24,000 takeoffs and landings a year and recently received government approval to double that number.
Occupying the next two spots on the list are competing locations at Geneva International Airport in Switzerland. France’s Paris Le Bourget Airport is also well represented with three FBOs in the top 10.
Curt Epstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff editor at Aviation International News.
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