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MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.

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Related background information from the Handbook...

Air Service Basel
FBO/Handler (Basel-Mulhouse)

FBO/Handler (Malaga)

Bilen Air Services/ExecuJet
FBO/Handler (Ataturk / Istanbul)

Capital Handling
FBO/Handler (Riga International / Riga)

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

Celta Aviation Services
FBO/Handler (4 de Fevereiro / Luanda)

Dassault Aviation Business Services
FBO/Handler (Geneva)

Dassault Falcon Service
FBO/Handler (Le Bourget / Paris)

Eccelsa Aviation
FBO/Handler (Costa Smeralda / Olbia)

excel handling
FBO/Handler (Frederic Chopin / Warsaw)

ExecuJet Belgium
FBO/Handler (Brussels National / Brussels)

ExecuJet Europe
FBO/Handler (Munich)

Fraport Ground Services Executive Aviation
FBO/Handler (Frankfurt/Main)

Harrods Aviation
FBO/Handler (Luton / London)

Harrods Aviation - The Knightsbridge
FBO/Handler (Stansted / London)

Jet Aviation (formerly ExecuJet)
FBO/Handler ()

London City Airport Private Jet Centre
FBO/Handler (London City / London)

London Oxford Airport t/a Oxfordjet (FBO)
FBO/Handler (London Oxford / Oxford)

Magnum FBO Austria
FBO/Handler (Schwechat / Vienna)

FBO/Handler (Palma de Mallorca)

Roskilde Executive Handling
FBO/Handler (Roskilde / Copenhagen)

FBO/Handler (Humberto Delgado / Lisbon)

Signature Aviation
FBO/Handler (Glasgow)

Signature Aviation
FBO/Handler (Geneva)

South Air
FBO/Handler (Keflavik)

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From airport entry to boarding, FBOs and handlers ensure smooth transit for high volumes
As passengers become ever more demanding, many handlers are developing the ability to predict what clients want before they ask for it. At the very least they are learning that they need to go beyond the traditional scope of handling operations to meet the increasing complexity and number of requests per client, which could be anything from faster ground transport options to individualised allergy-aware catering.
Read this story in our February 2018 printed issue.

As passengers become ever more demanding, many handlers are developing the ability to predict what clients want before they ask for it. At the very least they are learning that they need to go beyond the traditional scope of handling operations to meet the increasing complexity and number of requests per client, which could be anything from faster ground transport options to individualised allergy-aware catering. This trend is driving development within the companies, to enable them to better understand customer needs.

A broad skill set is important among employees, and this comes at a cost not only during recruitment but also for ongoing training, at a time when there is already competition on the apron from airline handlers who can offer services at a lower price. Although, as excel handling CEO Borys Slawomirski notes, it also comes at a lower quality. Cost pressure is a predominant theme and has led to collaborations between companies to share core business and competencies, but given that any team has to comprise competent, professional, well trained and motivated people, passion is the extra element that delivers winning service.

ExecuJet, part of the Luxaviation Group, now has 26 FBO facilities in its global network, with its own equipment and professionally trained staff. High profile events around the world create a higher than average number of arrivals and departures for FBOs. “These peaks in activity have become commonplace and we meticulously plan our operations by relocating staff from other facilities or partnering with our service providers at other airports, as well as requiring some hard work from our permanent staff,” says group FBO director Ettore Poggi. “The Brussels and Zurich FBOs, which ranked in the top ten of this year's EBAN survey, handle major events such as European and NATO summits and the World Economic Forum on an annual basis.”

FBOs and handlers across Europe have reported that aircraft movements generally seem to be either stable or up slightly from last year. London Oxford airport saw a slight swing to larger jets over eight tonnes with a small drop in jets below that weight. Helicopter movements were up 22 per cent year-on-year and there was notable uptick from the bigger jets such as Globals and Challengers.

Harrods Aviation's Stansted FBO has seen an increase in flight volume but demand at Luton has remained steady. The average aircraft types at Stansted are getting larger and are staying longer, which the company puts down to the increase in transatlantic and other long range trips, after which there will normally be a mandatory period of crew rest.

Enjoying around 20 per cent growth were Aviapartner Executive in Malaga and Magnum in Vienna, while excel handling in Poland saw a 29 per cent rise: 1,684 aircraft handled in 2017 versus 1,309 the previous year. However, it still has not reached its 2012 peak of 1,795 aircraft. Bilen Air Services in Turkey reports that flight hours were roughly the same across both years; the increase it had expected was adversely impacted by the political situation in the country.

Capital Handling in Riga, Latvia, saw departures at Riga airport fall by seven per cent, and Celta Aviation Services in Luanda, Angola, saw a 30 per cent drop.

Traffic surges and what is behind them

In Switzerland, Art Basel and Baselworld attract thousands of guests from all over the world and Air Service Basel is small enough to be flexible and deal with last minute requests, yet its facilities are big enough to cater for all its clients at these busy times. “Everyone from the company gets involved on the tarmac, even the CEO, and they stay late and work overtime if necessary,” explains marketing manager Laura Gambell, whose summer 2017 appointment led to the redesign of the website and a new digital marketing strategy.

Traffic in Malaga is seasonal and with a large increase during summer Aviapartner increases its staff to meet demand. Similarly in Sardinia, Eccelsa Aviation can handle up to 150 movements a day during July and August.

Mallorca is an established summer destination, but by using the slogans “Passion for Palma” and “Better in Winter” the government hopes to establish Palma as a year-round holiday destination for those interested in gastronomy, sport, shopping and culture. The opening of a congress and exhibition centre in 2017 should also help to spread traffic over the year.

Political meetings and concerts in Riga have caused spikes in traffic for Capital Handling, but it also saw increased movements for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia. The company instructs its clients on NOTAMs and any expected issues concerning parking or runway closures while providing special offers tailored to the needs of operators during those times for parking and hangarage. The numerous EU and NATO summits that took place in Poland last year brought business to Warsaw-based excel handling too.

The tourist industry is at an all-time high in Iceland and its growth is expected to continue. Isavia, the Icelandic national airport and air navigation service provider, has implemented a plan to meet that growth and as such traffic into Keflavik International airport has multiplied in the last few years. “This trickles into the general aviation side and we have seen more traffic and a slight change in the landscape of GA in this country,” says Magni Freyr Gudmundsson of Keflavik-based FBO SouthAir.

Addressing the skills shortage

SouthAir is among those who have noticed a shortage of third party services connected to the GA industry. “We try to adapt as best we can,” says Gudmundsson, “but Iceland is hampered by its size. It's a small nation with only 330,000 inhabitant­s. Certain aspects and skills do fall short.”

ExecuJet's Poggi believes the 24/7/365 nature of the industry sometimes causes people to seek employment in less demanding fields, but the company has a regular intake of trainee staff whom it mentors to meet its standards of customer service and safety practices. And many other companies now have dedicated in-house training. Air Service Basel is meeting a shortage of licensed and maintenance personnel by attracting a young generation of apprentices and interns. Capital Handling requires staff to have a wide skill set and helps develop its specialised personnel more broadly. London Oxford airport trains all new starters in-house, be they customer service agents, handlers or within the operations team, and to this end most of its management team have completed qualifications with various 'train-the-trainer' courses.

Fraport Executive Aviation operates the GA terminal at Frankfurt airport. Its traffic figures are generally stable and it is mainly thanks to the International Motor Show that the company sees a brief increase in flight movements every other September. The professionalism, reliability and skills of its employees are a prerequisite for success it says, as is their flexibility in terms of short-term overtime.

Dassault Falcon Service at Le Bourget has a low staff turnover and prides itself on its long-term relationships between staff and customers. FBO management skills are ever more demanding and interesting as the company develops its safety management systems in line with IS-BAH standards and while it needs to achieve sustainable growth, it must do so while also focusing on the different risks. “A non-punitive approach is necessary in order to establish trust from the staff,” says FBO general manager Romain Papy.

Signature Flight Support Glasgow assists local schools with work experience to introduce children to possible career paths, and this is echoed within Harrods Aviation, which is seeing wider recognition that apprentice-ships and the training of school age children in aviation-related skills are becoming necessary to ensure the workforce for the future.

But it's not just technical jobs that need filling, and being based on an island with a long-thriving tourism and service industry means Mallorcair at Palma de Mallorca airport easily finds candidates with suitable backgrounds and skill sets. RUAG too hires qualified personnel from the hotel and hospitality business and Signature Flight Support has devised a set of standard practices that covers all aspects of the GA business.

Customer expectations change service provision

Nowadays customers, and operators, tend to be more demanding, knowledgable and price sensitive, but generally prefer high quality service over a cheap price. This of course leads to competition where the challenge is to keep fees low but standards high. At the same time as expectations are rising, handlers are expected to anticipate customer needs and foresee any issues. But demands vary from region to region.

At ExecuJet Brussels the jets are getting bigger. “In Brussels we handle aircraft up to B747 and military cargo flights,” says handling and protocol manager An-Céline Claes. “We handle many passengers from all around the world and from a diverse range of cultures.” She actively looks for candidates with a positive attitude, flexibility and diverse language skills.

Aviapartner would like to have its own fuelling operation at Malaga, although this is not currently allowed by the Spanish authorities, and on-site immigration. For now the service is on-call and customers have to wait for up to 10 minutes to be processed. Eccelsa is adding an 'H' landing point to facilitate helicopter transfers and phase one of the work will be completed in time for the summer.

“Passengers are time-poor so boarding and disembarkation have to be extremely efficient,” says Safeport Executive business and operations coordinator and handling manager at Lisbon, Cascais and Faro airports Cristina Becken. The work is not becoming more difficult, it just demands more proactivity. And this is behind the company development strategy at Bilen Air Services in Istanbul, Turkey too, which organises workshops for its staff to better understand and service customer needs.

Customers prefer one point of contact for everything as it saves them time, their most valuable asset. Capital Handling delivers transfers, aircraft maintenance and many things that go beyond the traditional scope of a handler, which increases the complexity and the amount of tasks it handles for each client. However, Roskilde Executive Handling FBO coordinator Rikke Stehr recognises that a happy customer is a returning customer, which is motivation enough to accommodate these demands.

Customers are more sensitive nowadays to discretion and security, in fact at RUAG's Munich and Geneva FBOs expectations are highly individual but the highest priority is privacy. “Actually, its the restrictions and procedures placed upon us by the airport and aviation industry, that we then need to apply to customers, that are creating new challenges for the FBO,” says FBO manager Robert Zahler.

Going ahead together

In the past few years consolidation has been a trend in the business aviation industry, but then most industries have experienced this, says Poggi. ExecuJet has partnered with other aviation companies or service providers so that it can work in partnership with handling agents at other, or even the same, airports. In 2017 it entered the US market with a partnership agreement with the Paragon Network of FBOs.

“Cost pressure is the dominant theme everywhere,” says Fraport operations manager Kai Kowalewski. Clients expect more services so for some, working with other companies is essential, where each concentrates on its core business and core competencies. “Frankfurt airport is one of the major hubs in Europe. Business aviation should, and will be, further developed,” adds Kowalewski. The airport's Terminal 3 is under construction and should be partially operational by 2020, by which time the current apron and general aviation terminal will be relocated.

Some FBOs collaborate with local businesses, some rely heavily on third party partners and services, some work with operators at other airports and a few are independent. Bilen Air Service provides flight support for its AOC subsidiary, JetGlobe, through its dispatchers and hotel accommodation through its travel agency division. Eccelsa Aviation is a division of GEASAR, the Italian airport operator, as is Meridiana Maintenance which provides it with technical assistance and hangar facilities. Harrods Aviation's Stansted and Luton facilities have been part of the Air Elite network since 2013 and Vienna-based Magnum is part of the Signature Select network.

Oxford Aviation Services is the operator of London Oxford airport and its OxfordJet branded FBO. This means that all services are under one roof with one supplier, one invoice and one line of communication. In the past it has considered branding or joint venture partnerships with some of the larger established FBO chains but felt it didn't necessarily make the best economic sense.

Le Bourget airport is a competitive location for FBOs, there are six different ones across the eight terminals, and Dassault Falcon Service can organise additional equipment rental, hangarage and parking with them when necessary. And in Geneva, TAG Aviation handling manager Ertuk Yildiz says the airport authority actually encourages FBOs to collaborate on some common projects, even though strong competition remains.

Legislation and its impact

EASA regulations for aircraft main-tenance are steadily becoming more restrictive and bureaucratic says Gambell, which can be counter-productive in some areas. There are new carriage of dangerous goods regulations for fire and rescue, and revised security procedures require retraining or, in the case of Signature Flight Support Glasgow, procuring security assistance with flight processing from local handler Menzies Aviation.

London Oxford was one of the first UK airports to become EASA-certificated and although the tran-sition was burdensome, it has subsequently found it easier to develop and streamline safety man-agement systems, and indeed it credits this process with helping it reach IS-BAH Stage II compliance. The company now has a full-time compliance manager to deal with such things. UK Department for Transport airport security legislation has evolved to cover all those airports that undertake passenger screening and head of business development James Dillon-Godfray says: “That has been a challenge, and it's been quite costly to meet fundamentally the same protocols and standards as would be applied and adhered to at Heathrow.”

Harrods Aviation managing director Paul Norton adds: “The implementation of security regula-tions in the UK has been far more stringent than across Europe, even though we have been governed by the same European legislation.” This creates difficulties for the FBO in terms of procedures and equipment, and when having to explain why processes might be different for customers in the UK.

Keeping clients in the dark

FBOs will try to ensure that the impact on clients of security procedures is kept to a minimum, although that varies depending on where each is based. Angola-based Celta Aviation Services operations manager Pedro Mahinga notes that the 'fight against terror' is his particular challenge. Explosives checks have become more stringent and necessitate the installation of special equipment. But changes to resources and protocols require significant capital investment and training, as well as new access control points between airside and landside. Security is getting tighter every year.

Cedar Jet Center in Beirut, Lebanon, has amended its baggage loading procedure by adding a baggage tag with serial number to ensure safety and security, along with another Pushback Lektro tug, and Signature Flight Support Glasgow is currently trying to procure its own in-house security. Safeport Executive requires the mandatory completion of a general declaration form upon boarding and disembarkation, as well as the separation of cabin and carry-on baggage before a flight.

Harrods Aviation is heavily affected by London Stansted and London Luton, the two commercial airports that it operates from, when they decide to change how they manage critical part processes. “Clearly we have to adopt any aviation security changes handed down by the CAA,” says operations director Kerry Besgrove. “But customers who are used to flying privately and who occasionally charter a jet will often question the procedures they are required to go through. It would benefit all if these procedures were explained at the point of booking a charter, or when deciding to operate an aircraft over 45.5 tonnes.” ­­­

London City airport carries out triple AA bag procedures and body scanning, applying commercial aviation rules to business aviation passengers.

The finishing touches

Inside the various facilities, walls are often decorated with works of art ranging from street art to black and white photos of private jet interiors and business jets in flight. Passengers appreciate the beauty and jewellery shops at Capital Handling's main lounge. Dassault Falcon Service has carried out a complete overhaul of its FBO, which now boasts new crew working and relaxtion areas, a snooze room comprising bed and private bathroom and redesigned conference and meeting rooms. Signature Flight Support Glasgow has upgraded its external lighting to LED which gives a much softer feel, and the exterior of its building has been repainted and the external cladding has been upgraded to PVC. Meanwhile, excel handling has turned its attention to courtesy cars and has brought in a BMW 7 series model and a Mini Countryman SUV.

Harrods Aviation has refurbished its Luton lounge and London City Jet Centre has opened a lounge adjacent to its existing one. London Oxford airport has added a gallery of images of sculptures by Rodin and Degas, courtesy of branding and advertising partner Private Jet Media, while Mallorcair too shows artwork thanks to an arrangement with an art gallery. Magnum refurbished its operations department last year and is to open a VIP lounge in 2018 that has been designed by a VIP interior designer. At TAG Geneva the company even gave some space over to the artwork of one of its own members of staff, and to that of graffiti artist Joule Champod.

What more do our contributors want? They want more flexibility in slot handling, to be able to take client vehicles ramp side, and overall most of them want more space, whether it is on the apron, in the hangars or in the offices. And better reception areas that are welcoming and comfortable for passengers, crew, visitors and staff alike. Clients want privacy so exclusive access areas would also be desirable, provided they meet all safety and security regulations.

If we are talking about the one thing that would make the greatest difference to life on the tarmac then London Oxford airport's Dillon-Godfray would like to have a cocktail bar on the roof in the summer but alas security rules currently prevent this open air set-up.

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