The Best FBOs

Aug 16, 2015 - 8:00 PM

Our survey identifies top performers worldwide.

Fixed-base operations (aka FBOs) deliver essential business aviation services such as fueling, deicing and aircraft shelter, as well as waiting areas for passengers and crew. Some FBOs also feature audiovisual-equipped conference rooms, business centers, snacks and concierge services, while many provide pilots and crews with flight-planning facilities; rooms for resting, showering and movie watching; and courtesy cars.

For the past 34 years, BJT sister publication Aviation International News has conducted an annual survey to determine which FBOs offer the best customer experience. Those who do the reviewing are a specially selected segment of AIN’s readership—the pilots, flight-department managers, dispatchers and others who have the most interaction with these facilities. For its 2015 survey , the magazine received more than 12,000 evaluations of FBOs in 90 countries.

AIN asked respondents to rate facilities they’d used over the past year from 1 to 10 in the following five categories:

  • Line service—competence of the workers who meet the airplane on the ramp and service it.
  • Passenger amenities—quality of lounges and conference rooms and availability of ground transportation.
  • Pilot amenities—availability and quality of pilots’ lounges, flight-planning facilities, snooze rooms, crew showers, entertainment and recreation offerings and complementary crew cars.  
  • Facilities—cleanliness, comfort, upkeep and convenience of the location.
  • Customer service—professionalism of customer-service reps, their familiarity with the local area and their assistance with reservations and catering arrangements. 

This year, two FBOs share top honors in the Americas with an overall score of 9.5: AirFlite Aviation Services at Southern California’s Long Beach Airport, which earned the highest score for the second consecutive year; and J.A. Air Center at Chicago-area Aurora Municipal Airport. 

Toyota-owned AirFlite, which tallied top scores in three of the five categories, has occupied the same meticulously maintained building for 23 years and has long participated in Ritz-Carlton’s customer-service training program. The facility’s general manager is also a pilot in Toyota’s flight department, which allows him to view the FBO from a customer perspective.

J.A. Air Center has been a top performer in the survey for seven years and has earned a 9.5 score for the past three. Manager Randy Fank believes there are no mysteries when it comes to delivering quality service. “Take care of the customers in the back of the airplane and get them on their way,” he says. “Then you take care of the customers in the front of the airplane. You’ve got to go in there with a good attitude and take every day the same.”

European service providers continue to dominate the international part of the FBO survey, which also covers the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Nine of the top 10 locations to garner enough reviews to be ranked are in the UK, France or Switzerland. The lone exception is the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre. 

While scores for the international facilities tend to lag those of the longer-established premier North American operations, the gap has been closing. For the first time in the survey’s history, more than one location in Europe scored 9.0 or higher this year. 

TAG Aviation at the UK’s Farnborough Airport, which has made the list for nine straight years, earned a 9.1 score in each of the past three. Tag owns the dedicated London-area business aviation airport, which handled nearly 25,000 aircraft movements last year. The company’s FBO there received top scores for both passenger and crew amenities and the 9.4 score for its facilities was the highest ranking in any category in this year’s international survey.

Curt Epstein covers the FBO field at Aviation International News, where he is a senior editor.