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ABS Jets
FBO/Handler (Vaclav Havel / Prague)

Air Hamburg Executive Handling
FBO/Handler (Hamburg)

Allied Aero Services Sweden
FBO/Handler (Sturup / Malmo)

Athens Executive Aviation
FBO/Handler (Athens International / Athens)

Cedar Jet Center
FBO/Handler (Rafic Hariri / Beirut)

Challenge Aero
FBO/Handler (Igor Sikorsky International (Zhulyany) / Kyiv)

ExecuJet Europe
FBO/Handler (Munich)

Gozen Air Services
FBO/Handler (Ataturk / Istanbul)

Jet Aviation (formerly ExecuJet)
FBO/Handler ()

Jetex Abu Dhabi
FBO/Handler (Al Bateen Executive / Abu Dhabi)

Kurz Aviation Service
FBO/Handler (Stuttgart)

Multiflight
FBO/Handler (Leeds Bradford)

OMNI Handling
FBO/Handler (Humberto Delgado / Lisbon)

RoyalJet
FBO/Handler (Zayed International / Abu Dhabi)

Signature Aviation
FBO/Handler (Athens International / Athens)

Sky Valet
FBO/Handler (Barcelona)

Universal Aviation United Kingdom
FBO/Handler (Stansted / London)

BAN's World Gazetteer

Czech Republic
Germany
Sweden
Greece
Lebanon
Ukraine
Turkey
Switzerland

United Arab Emirates
U.K.
Portugal
Spain
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Perspectives – Rewarding it may be, but FBO managers never know when the working day will end
This month our Perspectives feature probes the innermost thoughts of those essential facilitators, the FBO managers.

This month our Perspectives feature probes the innermost thoughts of those essential facilitators, the FBO managers.

Whether dealing with customers, or organising a group of diverse staff, they are involved in a people-oriented business. In recruiting they all seek good communication skills, attention to detail, creative problem solving abilities, good organisation, fluent English, smart presentation, and only then, an understanding of flight operations. A background in hotels or other hospitality can be a distinct advantage.

In advising aircraft operators on how to get the best service they are equally of one voice: Provide as much information as possible as soon as possible!

As senior manager for ground operations and FBO for Royal Jet at Abu Dhabi, Basel Diab (pictured front cover) is responsible for the selection of the FBO's 70 staff. When recruiting, he looks for confidentiality, attention to detail, good presentation, flexibility and the ability to remain calm and methodical in stressful situations. He believes that if you hire happy people, training them thoroughly and treat them well, customer satisfaction will follow. Soliciting customer feedback and acting promptly upon it reinforces this policy.

With more than 20 years' of professional experience in the aviation industry, Diab has furthered his career in the ground operation and management field after majoring in mechanical engineering.

Of his typical day, Diab says: "I like having at least one hour of uninterrupted time in the early morning to plan my day. I usually start around 8am. Otherwise, I enjoy an office with open doors, constant feedback and lots of energy and activity. It helps me work more productively when I sense how busy everyone else is, too. I always reserve one hour of dead time every day to handle any unanticipated problems. I enjoy the managerial aspects of the job, the ability to motivate people and my influence on decisions taken in the organisation."

Under FBO managers Daniel Sander and Bernd Frey, Air Hamburg's FBO has four employees who were recruited for their dedication to service, and the understanding they have gained of pilot and passenger needs has grown with experience from the business jet side of the business. Aspects of continuous employee training is performed by pilots, and Sander and Frey advise clients looking for the best FBO experience to ensure they pick one with staff who are trained by pilots so they understand their needs.

And the advice to anyone thinking of moving into this field? "Be fast, friendly and stay cool when one challenge quickly follows another," they say.

Groundforce One Lisbon station manager Liliana Serafim believes that a thorough knowledge of ground services is necessary to deliver a good product. "The responsibilities of this position demand a detail-oriented and organised individual with the ability to read, write and speak English," says Serafim. "Capacity to work as a team, and to do shifts including early mornings, late nights, weekends and holidays are essential."

Serafim has worked at Groundforce One Lisbon's FBO since 2007, and before that spent 13 years at AirLuxor/Safeport FBO. Among a list of responsibilities are the supervision of daily operations, legal and policy matters, ensuring ramp personnel follow safety procedures outlined in the security manual and dispute resolution. A typical day might mean managing teamwork, delegating tasks, making contacts to raise more business, contacting customers, handling quotations, liaising with suppliers, invoicing and controlling payments.

According to Serafim, an FBO manager must be assertive, keep the team united and be able to handle pressure and stress, but she would definitely recommend the role to a friend: "It is a very rewarding job, especially when we have satisfied customers. We want to make customers happy enough to pass positive comments on to others."

Cedar Jet Center is based at the new GAT at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, where operations manager Randa Kammoun El-Hurr has responsibility for FBO handling agreements, supplier evaluation and contracts, lounge, hangar and equipment assets and serviceability. And then there are advertising campaigns and exhibitions to think about, along with training requirements, the monthly roster and CAA requirements.

"I manage day-to-day operations, following up with duty shift leaders in assigning the team to daily tasks," says Randa Kammoun. "I am also responsible for quality manual issues and amendments since I'm a member of Middle East Airlines Ground Handling (MEAG) quality council and MEAG SMS committee as well as ensuring that all procedures and staff instructions are well implemented."

Her typical day might go something like this: "When I arrive I check our daily operations, services and tasks with the duty shift leader, then a short brief of the day. Next I'll check the premises followed by checking mail. After going over the previous day's records and flight files, I follow up paperwork, monitoring live operations throughout the day."

But there are times when an unusual request can liven up the day: "One day we received a call from a vip two hours before arrival in Beirut requesting Lebanese meat pastries from a shop in Tripoli City. That's two hours from Beirut when the traffic is good, but we did manage it.

"It's nice to meet vips and people from all over the world with different cultures." But she adds: "The only drawback is that my mobile is always on and vacations are non-existent!"

Multiflight's FBO opened in 2000 under the watchful eye of manager Heather Cawthorne, who has since overseen its growth. Based at Leeds Bradford airport, the FBO has grown to employ six office staff and nine ramp ground handling staff.

"We offer a tailor-made handling service. This includes meeting and greeting, organising catering, transport, hotels, we can handle cats, dogs and ferrets under the Pet Travel Scheme…. We haven't had the pleasure of a family ferret as yet!"

It's a job that Cawthorne loves and one she says she would not swap. "When you run an FBO you need to be passionate about what you do. Our service is bespoke and we always go that extra mile for our clients."

On one occasion a client requested a particular wine and Heather called her supplier to discover that the last two bottles had just been sold to a local connoisseur. After some negotiating, she managed to persuade him sell her the wine, but it meant driving almost 30 miles to pick it up. "One of our regular clients likes the Racing Post, and if our local supplier runs out we will drive miles to get one," says Cawthorne.

"Crews are important and we never like to see a hungry captain! There is always a member of the Multiflight team on hand to get bacon sandwiches or a salad!"

"It is a Signature Flight Support standard to gather the staff together and discuss the day's work and share information," explains Patricia Lombardi, manager for SFS Greece's Athens station. "I inform staff of upcoming changes at the airport or within SFS, such as new safety rules. My day begins with a telephone call to the office requesting an update on flights that occurred over night. Once at the office I start answering my emails. I try to meet at least two or three crew each day plus passengers to get some feedback. Before leaving, I check the next day's flights against the staff schedule to make sure that we have the correct number of staff."

Lombardi has responsibility for PR, sales, co-ordination with the airport, liaison with suppliers. To meet customer requirements, she recommends: "Always listen, train staff, be helpful no matter if it is profitable or not, answer mail as soon as possible and answer phones no later than the second ring."

In return, Lombardi feels a customer will receive the best possible service if they make clear what they expect from the FBO and also to understand that, as each country is different, it is natural that the facilities will vary.

Handling and airport services director Roberto Zapatero looks after customer relations at Gestair FBOs in Spain and makes sure procedures are fulfilled, working closely with the station managers. "Of course there are other administrative tasks such as budgeting, invoicing issues and strategic analysis to do," he says.

Each day Zapatero catches up with all the station managers, following up every flight and making sure everything has proceeded as it should. Once a month, he visits each base to chat with the staff there. "I have to say I'm very proud of my staff, they make everything easier."

In hunting out the best FBO service, Zapatero has this advice for pilots or owners. "I believe that in the end, ground service is a very important part of the flight. Normally this is where troubles happen so it's essential to have a partner who you can rely on. I would recommend they look for well-established companies.

"I love my job, I never stop learning things, no matter how long you have been doing it. It has allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people."

Kurz Aviation Service GmbH has around 20 staff members working at the GAT in Stuttgart. Hagen Kurz takes responsibility for recruitment and selection, looking for candidates with at least two languages, primarily English. He adds: "They also must be friendly and know how to handle people, especially vips."

To meet expectations it is important, Kurz feels, to talk to customers and ask what they expect. This information is discussed during a workshop with staff, to find out how they can meet their customers' wishes. "There is no typical day in my working life," he says, citing an occasion when a catering order came in at €1,500 for just two passengers on a European flight. "This is one of the reasons I love this job. To be in contact with many different and interesting people, and I would recommend it to any friend."

Weston Aviation has three UK FBOs and general manager Becky Carver, who managed the Durham Tees Valley station for four years, now heads up all three locations. Before joining Weston in 2006, she worked for Saudi Arabian Airlines as a senior flight dispatcher and with Emirates in Dubai. Carver oversees the general running of each FBO and leaves the day-to-day operations to the FBO managers. "Their roles may not be typical as they also take an active role in daily operations; they roll their sleeves up with the rest of the staff and get stuck in!

"As an FBO manager, you need to be extremely organised, level headed and above all keep a sense of humour at all times; vital for those last minute changes which are part of the job."

Having a small team at each location has its benefits, Carver points out, as most returning passengers and crew know each member of staff by name, helping build strong customer relations. "Remembering the small details personalises the experience and adds a nice touch," she says.

Strange requests are not unexpected, she says. "I have spent a few manic hours trying to locate a specific bottle of vodka and a cocktail shaker; not the easiest thing on a Sunday morning. Of course, they were found eventually and the flight left with happy customers."

Unsurprisingly, Carver says that although there are daily duties to be done, each day brings something different: "You might be heading out the door after a long day when a transplant flight books in for the early hours of the morning. For anyone wanting a nine-to-five job, this is not the job for you."

"I have been running our FBO for four years, but previously I was central dispatch chief at the airport," says deputy director Valeriy Voznyuk for Challenge Aeroport at Kiev (Zhuliany) airport. "There are lots of responsibilities whenever you are doing something you love, but some significant ones are overall management of ground handling departments, project management, certification, marketing etc."

Challenge Aeroport has around 200 employees at present. The most valued skills are good communication, responsibility and reliability, he says, adding: "That means they should be able to apply basic psychological skills while talking to a passenger, illuminating all possible queries that may arise."

IST station manager Olcay Dulger has worked at Gozen Air Service since 1998. "I'm responsible for assigning duties for all private, charter, schedule and cargo flights, weekly staff roster, ensuring two agents meet private jets – one agent stays with the crew and the second escorts passenger from the aircraft to the GAT," he says.

At Istanbul, staff are trained not to say 'no'. "The word 'no' does not exist for us," asserts Dulger. "For any special request that we cannot meet, we always try to find and offer something similar."

Dulger has a list of special requests which prove the fact: "Within two hours we arranged two cars to pick up catering from four different locations. We have purchased a Maxi-cosi seat for an infant within 45 minutes and in one hour we bought an ice machine for an aircraft."

"Rheinland Air Service GmbH runs the business aviation terminal at Munich Executive Airport with a team of three," says FBO manager Thomas Mayr. "In 2008 I became a member of the project team that took over the responsibility for the establishment of the new Swissport Station at Frankfurt airport. This was a challenging job and I gained experience being solely responsible for the ops department."

Mayr joined Rheinland Air Service in 2009 and became the FBO manager and helped start the operation from scratch. "A tough but fascinating job," he says. "Close contact with my team and clients enables me to collect impressions at first hand. It is of great importance for us to take time for our customers. In return we receive direct customer feedback from crew members or passengers that enables us to tailor our services to their personal needs."

While Mayr was at Schönefeld he encountered a tricky request after the football World Cup final. "I took over the dispatch shift and a pilot called on our company frequency. I had a look in my schedule and could not find a file for this aircraft. He said: 'I'm a Gulfstream 5 on apron 4. The aircraft is AOG with passenger on board and I need a new aircraft, now! The flight should go to New York and the price is no problem at all.' Unfortunately we were not able to find an aircraft all over Europe. During that weekend all aircraft were in the air!"

Like others in his position, Mayr loves the variety his job brings: "When you start in the morning you never know what might happen. The most tiresome aspect is that many customers are afraid of handling in general and refuse to spend money for it. That's because many FBOs, especially in eastern Europe charge high handling fees and offer poor service. Often we need to persuade our new customers of the added value."

Many funny episodes happen when not expected at Avcom-D, Domodedovo, as related by director general Evgeny Pavlenko: "I remember a newlywed couple who booked a jet to go to Paris on Valentine's Day. They were on their honeymoon, happy and carefree. My team of young women was dying to see the lucky bride – one could feel vibes of envy in the air. Anyway, it probably got too intense at some point, because, with all the emotions accumulating, the pilot couldn't get the plane off the ground, he couldn't start the engine and the lucky couple, being not so lucky any more, had to cancel their flight."

Pavlenko has been with Avcom-D for three years. "As general manager I am primarily responsible for guiding staff in achieving the goals formulated by the chairman of the board; to ensure that all processes are working in a proper manner."

A quality assurance programme provides feedback to the accountable manager to ensure corrective actions as necessary. It contains procedures designed to verify that operations are being conducted in accordance with relevant standards and procedures.

For job satisfaction, Pavlenko cites meetings with potential clients as enjoyable. But communication with airport and government authorities, who are sometimes unable to formulate their demands clearly, can be tiresome.

"In our headquarter FBO in Zürich, where I am based, we employ 20 people," says the ExecuJet's Nicole Gut. "When hiring staff, we have had good experiences with taking on people from the hotel business. If you have worked in the 4-5 star hotel industry you know how to treat demanding clients."

With responsibility for the success of all ExecuJet's FBOs in Europe, Gut overlooks the operational aspects. "The daily business is up to my staff but as I started as FBO manager in Zurich myself, I feel very much part of the everyday challenges and sometimes get involved too much."

"Every flight is different, that's what makes the FBO business so exciting; we have a customer who regularly sends their dogs on a private aircraft to visit other members of the family."

From a client perspective, Gut recommends that in dealing with experienced FBOs: "Just let them do their job. Every location is different so the FBO staff know the exact way forward. Even if it is meant well, interfering with the FBO's work is usually slowing down the process than speeding things up."

Gut's main task every day is to keep staff happy and motivated, so before she checks emails or picks up the phone, she talks to staff to get informed about pressing issues. "Once I have an overview I can focus on the day-to-day matters which pop up everywhere if you are dealing with as many locations as I am."

"The FBO/aircraft handling company my wife and I started two years ago was the most interesting and demanding business we ever launched," says owner and ops manager Helmut Gross. "Today MTS Aviation is the only handler at Malmo airport with a privately-owned apron and air conditioned hangar.

Being a small company is definitely not a drawback in Gross' eyes: "Not only do regular clients appreciate the familiar atmosphere at our place, even crew are surprised by the personal care. Sometimes we are asked which Scandinavian airports we operate at but as we observed from the other big companies, you cannot keep the kind of service we provide when you have several locations with many employees."

Gross goes further, saying: "We've never heard of owners of a handling company taking crew sightseeing or inviting them for lunch - we do. We get invited for a coffee and a chat with the family and that is the real difference."

Stephen Jones is general manager and Pauline Smith senior FBO manager, at Dhabijet, Al Bateen Airport. Smith is supported by three senior assistants, approximately 15 ground handling staff and a hospitality team.

"We need people familiar with handling all types of business jets and trained to operate in a large airport ground handling environment," says Jones.

"I have been responsible for combined airport management and FBOs for over ten years, prior to which I was a senior executive with BAE Systems holding a variety of positions. Pauline has more than 20 years experience in FBO management."

"Each day differs which is the good thing about the job, however there are common components," says Jones. The first task is to review movements and passengers inbound/outbound for the day and determine FBO services required. After this the day usually consists of meetings on everything from HR matters and suppliers to safety. "This is usually interspersed with dealing with the unexpected and juggling priorities," he adds.

Jan Kralik joined ABS Jets in 2006 as an operations dispatcher and is now ground operations manager.

Kralik initiated the long haul flight planning department, and has developed third party services for ABS Jets, which as a result now handles flight planning for the Embraer demonstration fleet and for the governmental fleet of Panama.

"I am responsible for the smooth running of the FBO, sharing this responsibility with the ground handling manager Radek Novotny. Radek is responsible for the technical issues, the rest remains with me."

It is Kralik's belief that ABS Jets gains a major competitive advantage with the experience gained from also being an aircraft operator. "We can see and evaluate our operations not only from the side of the service provider, but also from the client's side, and I can assure you that we are a very demanding client looking for the highest standards."

On a day-to-day basis, Kralik spends time emailing, checking the ramp, large numbers of meetings, looking after customers and seeking new business. But when he gets a chance, he takes a moment to himself: "I do find cleaning the hangar floor in a cleaning car very therapeutic, especially after a hard day. And we are all looking forward to first snow as we recently got a new Lamborghini! Do you know of any other employer that gives its team a Lamborghini? Of course I am joking, this is our new tractor, made by Lamborghini."

Britta Martin, international marketing and customer relationship manager at EBAS Munich, is one of 12 staff manning the FBO and the company participates in an apprenticeship programme for airport management assistants in traffic services. "We train those who have never worked in an airport environment before, but we prefer to hire skilled," she says.

Martin is self-employed and has been working at EBAS for more than eight years. "I have more or less grown up in the airport environment with a father who owned a helicopter company. I worked at Munich airport air traffic operation centre for many years and then as an operations and customer manager at MHS Helicopter Service. When I find time I fly as a flight attendant on private jets and work on projects as a flight/airport manager for charter groups."

At EBAS, Martin's duties include regular FBO work, international marketing and customer relations. A typical day might include sorting out updates and unforeseen events alongside taking care of passengers and crews, flight briefings, slot coordination or changes.

After 16-years' experience in business aviation, Yiannis Stergiopoulos of Athens Executive Aviation feels he can say with certainty that the key to success is the respect and trust one can inspire in colleagues and collaborators.

"In a local FBO that hasn't got a renowned brand name, I consider the personal relationship of the FBO manager with crew members and passengers of great importance. The way he handles every single situation, the service he offers, and being available 24/7 are vital." Additionally, Stergiopoulos believes that the attitude of staff, including training and the manner in which everyone works in an organised team, are the responsibility of the FBO manager.

"In my opinion, every flight is a challenge as, when working with operators from all over the world, we have to be cautious when it comes to their adjustment to local procedures, to the way in which we provide our services, and make them feel secure, safe and confident that they are getting correct instructions and information."

Experience and training are the top priorities when Sean Raftery, managing director at Universal Aviation in the UK is looking to recruit. "You cannot just hire someone off the street with no experience and expect them to perform at the level required, with the customer service skills necessary to meet clients' demands.

"Regardless of previous experience, we administer training via our own in-house training and safety manager. We look for employees with a great attitude and aptitude, who are adaptable and have a sense of urgency when attacking last minute requests.

"Not all aircraft operators are the same, so I take to the time to find out what they need. I also cannot stress enough that safety should be your highest priority."

A good FBO should have staff that are as much concierges as aviation professionals, says Raftery. "We have had requests from sourcing the rarest bottles of vintage wine to loading a life-size bronze horse into a B747. We once changed the trip and flights plans eight times on the passengers' journey from London to our facility. He had purchased an atlas and was thinking on his feet. It's why he has a jet and why we are here!"

Aerea FBO has a station at Madrid and has been granted a license to manage the GAT at Malaga Airport. It is also highly-regarded, winning the 2011 EBAN FBO survey.

FBO manager Yolanda Avalos says: "I have been working for Aerea FBO since operations commenced in 2007. It has been an interesting challenge to initiate the project from the beginning. Our ceo Francisco Abella placed his trust in me and believed that, with the rest of the operations team, we would achieve good work."

In her role, Avalos has an oversight of operational issues and teams to ensure smooth round-the-clock operation. "I am responsible for the safety of visitors and staff and safety on the ramp, as well as the maintenance of FBO equipment. We have two operations duty managers responsible for maintaining close contact with FBO customers ensuring service meets requirements.

"It is difficult to define a typical day; I believe this work is defined by its variety. I can have a day planned for certain projects, but what occurs with our customers or flight situations has priority. We know when we will begin our working day but never when we are going to finish."

Other News
 
Allied Aero offers VIP lounge at Malmö Sturup
January 14, 2024
There is a new VIP FBO at Malmö airport, its first in fact, and it provides a time-saving alternative compared to the bustling Copenhagen and Roskilde airports.