FBO Confidential – What does it take to be a great FBO?
When a client decides to make a private jet trip, they will be in contact with three different groups of people; the broker or salesperson selling them the flight, the flight crew flying the airplane and the FBO personnel greeting and handling the passengers before and after the flight itself. Therefore, it is undeniable that an FBO (fixed-base operator) is one of the most important aspects of private jet travel. The experience at the FBO will make for a significant part of the experience the passenger has. It can make or break the trip.
For this reason, FBOs are under enormous pressure from the other two groups to deliver and keep the passenger happy. In the busiest airports, FBOs are also competing against each other, obliged to maintain the highest of standards, as clients change their FBO preference easily. So, what makes an FBO great? What qualities distinguish one FBO from the other? Five key areas can be identified:
1. Customer service
Customer service is crucial. An FBO that does not strive to provide customer service that is above and beyond client expectations simply will not succeed. Clients of private jet travel are accustomed to the highest levels of service, and a personalized approach to each client’s needs is an absolute must. FBOs have to know who their clients are, and they have to combine their knowledge of customer preferences and wishes to deliver an experience that will remind the client why they are using this FBO and not the one next door. Small gestures can have a huge impact. Giving a birthday present is something that many businesses do. However, a great FBO will know precisely what kind of gift will stay in the client’s memory. Or, understand that the client does not like to receive gifts at all and be reminded of there birthday! Knowing how each client will react to small gestures is paramount. It might be inappropriate for one client, but a perfect surprise for the other. Another aspect of customer service is being able to deliver one-stop service. The passenger flying with a private jet might also need a helicopter to reach his final destination, but the operator might not have enough local knowledge to organize reliable last-mile transport. Here the FBOs with local knowledge steps in, providing the client with reliable transportation. In the end, it comes down to knowing the client’s wishes and being able to deliver exceptional services consistently.
An FBO can also make points for itself by being a reliable partner of the passengers and operators alike. During irregular operations, when everything goes wrong, being able to have a safety net to fall back on is priceless in business aviation. This is valid for both, operators and passengers. A passenger that knows he can rely on the services of the FBO and will be taken care of by the FBO personnel is less likely to be negatively affected by minor drawbacks. Operators know that and often prefer a reliable FBO over a cheaper one. Reliability in business aviation is priceless.
Part of what makes an FBO reliable is the ability to react to adverse and unexpected situations. The only constant in business aviation is that you never know what tomorrow brings. A great FBO will have employees able to react to those unexpected issues, equipped with smart and quick solution-oriented thinking and empowered to take action. Those issues might be coming from all sides of the business, be it the passengers, the operators or outside vendors. The most important thing is to keep any negative effects away from the clients. Another important aspect is that FBOs will eventually have to deal with unexpected client demands. Taking care of anything from financial needs up to catering wishes, being able to accommodate the requests without going astray from company principles and guidelines and keeping up with time-restrictions can be challenging.
Private jet passengers choose this exclusive type of transport for many different reasons, due to the perceived luxury, cost-effectiveness or relaxed experience. However, almost all of them want a private jet due to the unmatched privacy it provides. Hence the name private jet. An FBO is a crucial part of this private experience. While onboard the jet, privacy is guaranteed, on the ground it has to be achieved with the utmost care. If you are speaking for example about a famous celebrity or a well known politician, you can expect that one or other interested party will eventually find out where the passenger might be departing or arriving from. Again, experienced and trained FBO personnel will know how to handle those situations and prevent any unauthorized person from being present while the passenger arrives and boards the airplane. Ideally, even views from far away can be made impossible due to the way the entrance is positioned. Also important is that everyone working at an FBO is aware that unlawful attempts at retrieving information from the FBO might be made, and to be on guard for those attempts.
Besides the above mentioned soft products, FBOs also need to deliver great a premises and facilities experience. Passengers expect a wide range of luxurious options while they wait for their aircraft. From entertainment options to relaxing treatments, FBOs are becoming more and more similar to top 5-star hotels. Private rooms within the FBO itself are also welcomed by the client, allowing for maximum privacy. A modern look combined with stunning views to the aircraft is almost a guarantee to be a hit with all visitors of the private terminal. The FBO should also take care of the flight crews with dedicated spaces for rest and work. Often, crews spend hours at an FBO waiting for their next flight and have plenty of time to inspect the facilities. Their evaluation will eventually reach either the passenger or the operations departing of the aircraft operator, both vital to the FBO business.
A great FBO will excel in all the mentioned points without comprising. That is demanding and not easy to achieve, but FBOs are dealing with some of the most demanding clientele in the world and know that delivering less than a perfect service is unacceptable. If they can combine all those points, a client will have almost no reason to complain and leave the FBO with positive memories.