The Best FBOs

Jul 19, 2017 - 3:30 PM

About 3,400 FBOs operate at U.S. airports, delivering essential business aviation services such as fueling, deicing, aircraft maintenance, and shelter, and providing comfortable waiting areas for passengers and crew. To determine which of those locations offer the best overall experiences, BJT’s sister publication, Aviation International News, has conducted an annual survey since 1981, polling a select subset of its readership, including pilots, flight schedulers, and dispatchers—those who can knowledgeably evaluate FBOs.

While in the past, AIN’s survey invited these readers to rate locations only during certain months, the magazine now allows them to evaluate FBOs year-round. That allows respondents to keep their observations up to date, with their latest rating of a location replacing their previous one.

Another change in this latest survey: rather than base results on just a current round of voting, AIN now compiles average scores based on responses from the last four years.

The survey asks respondents to rate facilities they’ve used over the past 12 months on a scale of 1 to 5 in the following categories:

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

With an average score of 4.75, the highest-rated FBO in the Americas this year is the Sheltair location (formerly Tampa International Jet Center) at Florida’s Tampa International Airport, which the Florida-based chain purchased a year ago. The perennially high-rated facility earned the best score this year for passenger amenities (4.75) and shared top honors for pilot amenities (4.73). The 20-acre facility is open 24/7 and encompasses a 12,000-square-foot, two-story terminal with atrium lobby, a street-side customer canopy at the front entrance, and on the airside, a 12,500-square-foot arrival/departures canopy to shelter aircraft and guests from the heat and rain. Other features include a passenger lounge overlooking the ramp, a pair of A/V-equipped conference rooms, complimentary refreshments, and a courtesy shuttle to hotels. The airport’s U.S. Customs facility is adjacent to the ramp, providing easy international flight clearance.

While in the past, AIN’s survey invited these readers to rate locations only during certain months, the magazine now allows them to evaluate FBOs year-round.

On AIN’s list of leading FBOs outside the Americas, nine of the top 10 are in Europe. (The exception is MJets in Bangkok, Thailand.) London-area facilities occupy the three top slots, with Farnborough Airport’s TAG Aviation at No. 1, a position it has held for more than a decade.

“The key difference is that we are the only [UK] airport dedicated solely to business aviation,” says TAG Farnborough Airport CEO Brandon O’Reilly. “The ownership of the airport and the operation of the FBO are concentrated in one operation so there is no compromise on the service.”

Recent upgrades at the FBO include a high-capacity lounge on the top floor of the three-story, 52,000-square-foot terminal to accommodate large groups such as sports teams and rock bands and a fully equipped gym for visiting pilots. The location features more than 329,000 square feet of hangar space, an on-airport luxury hotel, and a pub.    

To read BJT's list of top-rated FBOs or AIN's expanded report, click on one of the links below.