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Business Air News
Business Air News
The monthly news publication for aviation professionals.

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Related background information from the Handbook...

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

Eccelsa Aviation
FBO/Handler (Costa Smeralda / Olbia)

ExecuJet Europe
FBO/Handler (Brandenburg / Berlin)

Grafair Jet Center
FBO/Handler (Bromma / Stockholm)

Harrods Aviation
FBO/Handler (Luton / London)

Jet Aviation Amsterdam
FBO/Handler (Schiphol / Amsterdam)

Jet Aviation Zurich
FBO/Handler (Zurich)

London Southend Jet Centre
FBO/Handler (London Southend / Southend)

FBO/Handler (Palma de Mallorca)

Roskilde Executive Handling
FBO/Handler (Roskilde / Copenhagen)

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Understanding customer needs tips the Jet Centre to top of EMEA FBOs
The top ten positions were tightly scored, but the one thing they all had in common was an innate understanding of customers and an appreciation of their business. They bring crew too, not just passengers.
The Jet Centre Southend leadership team comprises of Jack Tarbuck, Amy Croarkin and Grant Fox.
Read this story in our September 2023 printed issue.

The Business Air News FBO Feedback survey presents a snapshot of where excellence is rewarded by our readers. The survey celebrates the facilities, services, staff and value for money from the hundreds of FBO businesses across Europe, the

Middle East and Africa. We asked our readers to score their experiences at the FBOs and business handling agents they had visited over the past year.

As business aviation volume continues along its steady upward trajectory, so the greater number of airport users is driving the market for FBO business. Forecasts predict significant growth over the next few years, and these business aviation facilities will have the opportunity to evolve as they optimise their maintenance, fuel, parking, hangarage and ground service offerings. Where some worry that increased air travel will further damage our planet, many FBOs are augmenting, renewing and modernising their facilities in such a way as to mitigate these concerns and to facilitate clean and green air movements. These moves may be reflected in sustainable air fuel provision, in electric ground vehicles, in green-rated building practices and paperless operations.

Worth noting that fuel volume and numbers of flights have not fully recovered against pre-COVID levels and the further hit the market took from the Russia-Ukraine war. But in 2021 the global FBO market size was valued at $3,1278 million, and was estimated to reach $5,6304 million by 2027. New private flyers escaping reduced airline schedules and health concerns have come to the business aviation market and stayed. But the cost of flying has risen, say operators, thanks to the rise in jet fuel pricing following the invasion and a tightening of the global oil supply. Nevertheless, the market is generally busier.

One particular challenge resulting from strong activity appears in the form of a shortage in hangarage for some service providers. Space for more aircraft is needed and, as trends are showing, space for larger aircraft.

Despite the knocks, there is much to celebrate and there are any number of opportunities in this evolving FBO market. As most readers will know, Business Air News has been busy conducting a survey of its business aircraft pilot and owner/operator subscribers to determine the leading FBOs in the EMEA region, and we are pleased to include some of the major global players among our top ten. Not for all come huge investments in tech or facilities, some have appealed to their customers' appetites for the provision of high quality customer care.

The highest ranking FBOs are:

1. Southend (London Southend): London Southend Jet Centre

2. Stockholm (Bromma): Grafair Jet Center

3. Copenhagen (Roskilde): Roskilde Executive Handling

4. Palma de Mallorca: Mallorcair

5. Amsterdam (Schiphol): Jet Aviation Amsterdam

6. Paris (Le Bourget): Dassault Falcon Service

7. Berlin (Brandenburg): ExecuJet Europe

8. London (Luton): Harrods Aviation

9. Olbia (Costa Smeralda): Eccelsa Aviation

10. Zurich: Jet Aviation Zurich

The Jet Centre at London Southend airport, in at our number one spot this year, was first established in January 2018 under a former name with just a small team. Then, in 2019, a process of reorganisation and expansion set the stage for growth.

“The building that we’re in now was constructed in January 2018,” says general manager Grant Fox. “That’s where we got started, and it was a fairly small team to begin with, which was then restructured and built upon throughout 2019. Then COVID came along and it absolutely beat us around. Since returning after the pandemic, we’ve changed our structure. I was able to rebuild the team as of last August, so it’s just over a year now that I’ve had a bolstered team back onsite, and we’ve been pushing from there. In fact, we are not yet five years old.”

Fox joined the FBO in July 2019. He had spent 13 years in the commercial sector at Stansted before joining with the previous managing director Fiona Langton.

One of the biggest changes they implemented was enlightening the team about who the clients are. "Everyone has the perception that the passengers are your only clients, and that’s not the case. The biggest thing was getting the team to understand that every stakeholder that comes through the jet centre is a potential client. People talk, and it’s not just the passengers that come through to you. Nine times out of 10, passengers spend the least amount of time in the lounge out of everybody. They arrive on the aircraft and then have a vehicle waiting airside, or they might walk straight through the lounge out on to the aircraft. Often when they arrive in to us, they’re straight back out again.”

Crews are a different matter. When they come in, they might have just done a six or seven hour trip. They then have 90 minutes to prep before the flight goes back out, or they have 60 minutes of shutdown before they can leave.

He continues: “The key for us was to always take care of the crew as well as the passengers, along with every third party contractor, so that’s everyone from chauffeurs to those providing the laundry and catering for us. All of these businesses are an extension of us, so we’re very careful on who we choose to work with, ensuring that they are providing the highest level of service as we try to do here. So that was the biggest task, but it’s paid off.”

The company has been through a number of team members over the last few years, thanks, again, to COVID. In August 2022 Fox was able to bring in another four staff members. This strengthened the ramp team, and gave a bit more support up top too. Fox is the general manager, Amy Croarkin is operations manager and Jack Tarbuck is duty operation supervisor; between them they are able to oversee the operation seven days a week. Richard Walker was brought in last year to support and help with business development.

Southend Jet Centre has just taken on a bit more square footage within its hangar space, which means more parking facilities for clients, and it is working closely with a few other companies as well. There is a partnership with Avfuel which works really well, and the company uses MyAirOps as its software package, which helps collate all movements and invoicing. And it has just teamed up with AvioNexus, which means that all client details are firmly protected in accordance with GDPR regulations. “So we’ve taken lots of little steps to improve what we do, to ensure there is a smooth process right from when emails come through from the operations team,” he says.

“And we’re almost there with obtaining our pet licence. We’ve got the facilities for it and all training is in place, we are just waiting on the approvals to finally come through.

“We also held an open day in June. We are trying to hold an annual event where we invite brokers and operators and other industry partners down to see us. The first one was in 2022 and we had about 80 guests; this year that number grew to 142, and we had catering and some aircraft on static display, along with conferences with the likes of Richard Koe.

“Understanding client need is the most important aspect for us,” Fox concludes. “We needed to understand that crews are arguably our biggest customers. We get to know our regulars and we know what they like, so drinks can be waiting. We have screens throughout the jet centre where we can have bespoke messages put up to welcome them in, with customised logos and names and so on. It’s those extra little details that make the difference. It’s all about taking that extra care. We also offer trip support and flight planning as an extra add-on service.”

The number three spot was awarded to Roskilde Executive Handling. The facilities for crew and FBO guests at Roskilde airport have not undergone any changes over the last year, so what brought the company to the attention of voters was, again, its focus on crew and guests.

"We have implemented some changes in our way of organising the FBO office in terms of better flow of information and better response to our guests," says head of commercial operations Simona Doddi Jespersen. "We have been adding new products in our lounges, especially in the VIP lounge, upgrading our drinks and small snacks, but I don't believe that is the main cause of our success. Rather, it is all about our staff, and the way we deliver service to all our guests."

She believes the key to the company's high ranking is its dedication to making each one of its guests and crew feel unique and welcomed at any time. Guests get a sense of the family spirit of the organisation, and the team also takes much pride in providing the service, be they passengers, FBO staff, ground staff, security, operational supervisors or management.

"We take pleasure in any small act we do, from serving a cup of coffee to our crew while they are preparing their flight briefings, helping with the loading of a very special bag, checking the quality of our catering provider or delivering security checks," she continues. "Every act is done with consideration, and to give our guests the best experience possible whether their stay with us is short or long."

Over the last year the company has been affected by major operational changes due to increased ADR regulation, but this has not affected that quality of service. This she attributes to the extremely capable staff who embrace the changes and do the best they can given any situation.

"We are always trying to deliver a safe and organised operation for our guests. We are extremely proud of the last 11 years' achievements and yet it has not been easy to keep our position near the top of the table. It takes hard work and continuous dedication," she says. "Given that other airports may have better crew facilities than ours, we have delivered an amazing performance based on improved handling processes and even better personal service. We are all willing to walk an extra mile for any single guest we have."

The company is currently planning to introduce a new check-in reception desk. "And that," she adds, "is where our strength lies. We never rest trying to improve the service for our guests. That, and strong teamwork all round.”

In Palma, Mallorcair sales manager Xavier Mudoy says: "It is a real honour to find our FBO is recognised in fourth position on the survey. As some of you know, Mallorcair is a family business and, as such, we like to treat our clients like family and friends, crew and passengers included."

Mallorcair started up 30 years ago, and these three decades have brought experience and knowledge to the team. And while the staff know how to perform handling assignments and 'do the job' professionally, they all believe it is their personalised service that makes the difference. "We take client needs and requests personally, and we apply those standards that we would like shown to us. And then we improve them," he says.

The terminal space has been designed to make passenger and crew visits as comfortable as being in their own home living rooms. They can sit and enjoy a coffee or a drink with family, friends or co-workers, surrounded by contemporary art works, while they are being readied for departure. They know, he assures, that everything is being taken care of by Mallorcair.

"The handling services we offer, plus the coordination of everything involved for the arrival, stay, and departure of the aircraft, is carefully undertaken by a dedicated and well-prepared team," Mudoy continues. "We have made improvements through investment in our own ground support equipment, so we don't need to rely on third party services any more. This enables us to guarantee the desired high standard of service. And we have hangar space available exclusively for our clients.

"Furthermore, we work hand in hand with Aire Private Jets Catering for all our inflight catering requirements, 24/7 and all year round. That has given our services an extra value that I’m sure our clients take into account when choosing us."

Taken together, Mudoy believes that all these elements are behind their position in the BAN FBO survey top four. "For us, it's a sign that we have been not only maintaining but improving our standards. There is always room for more improvement, and that’s what we will keep working towards."

Dassault Falcon Service Paris-Le Bourget FBO, in at number six, is a proud member of the Dassault family and, since 2016, of the Air Elite network. It opened its new VIP lounge this year.

"Our level of service is of the highest standard, we are IS-BAH certified, and our customers enjoy a close club-like relationship," says FBO manager Andréa Pernoud. "Our experienced staff address all their needs with a close eye to detail.

"For us, crew are very important because they usually spend much more time at the FBO than any VIP passenger does. So we give them our best care and attention.”

The company has made investments both in customer comfort and in respect of the environment. All new vehicles and ground service equipment are electrified, which achieves rapid reductions in carbon emissions, and sustainable aviation fuel is on offer for the increasing number of operators using the fuel. 

But the most important asset within DFS’s FBO is human says Pernoud: “We have a stable staff with very little turnover. This allows us to serve our clients like no other FBO. When you use our services, you are not a number, you are the most important person in the world and recognised as such by our team.”

ExecuJet is over the moon with its seventh place position, full of pride and enthusiasm for the dedicated team that strives to be the ‘best of the best’ in ground handling operations.

"The achievement marks an outstanding performance in light of some very challenging times facing the industry," says ExecuJet Europe managing director Ronny Stechert. "We are a very tight team and, aside from meeting the demands for all changes and challenges, we have a lot of fun. The joy we feel at work reaches our customers."

The focus is, of course, on excellence and he feels that shines through every day, not least in a commitment to the IS-BAH industry code of best practices. The ExecuJet Berlin FBO received IS-BAH accreditation in December 2015, the first FBO in Germany to do so and one of the first across Europe to hold this industry-leading safety certificate.

"We are continuously striving for ways to expand our service offering in order to provide the best experience for our customers," he continues. "Our Berlin Brandenburg airport FBO is presidential and VIP approved, and in January we began our own into-plane fuel business, and we have further facility improvements and equipment upgrades planned in the coming months.

"We understand the needs and requirements of the private traveller and corporate jet aircraft operator, and this includes a superior level of security and customer privacy. As our customers benefit from our experience and critical operational information, we have achieved an enviable reputation for the ability to provide additional services of value to the corporate jet operator and passengers, such as concierge assistance, customs and immigration processing facilities, and airside transport."

Facilities at Berlin Brandenburg are completely private and smoothly run; passengers arriving there can be on the road within minutes of landing. There is much to distract any visiting flight crew, and there is a fueling facility with dedicated fuel trucks provided by BP, which means short response times resulting in virtually no waiting. "All this is made possible by six experienced employees, two modern fuel trucks and the backing of our entire FBO handling service," Stechert concludes.

The company constantly strives to minimise the environmental impact of all its locations, and Luxaviation Group has recently launched a charter travel management app that includes the option to use sustainable aviation fuel as a means of cutting a flight’s carbon emissions.

The prize draw for a watch whose design is inspired by the iconic Supermarine Spitfire, open to all those who took part in the survey, went to Silver Flight first officer Bo Koomen. He submitted his votes while stopping over at one of his favourite places, the aéroport du golfe de Saint-Tropez, with handler Sky Valet, and says his reason for voting was to show some appreciation to the FBOs he visits regularly: "It’s their service and knowledgeable staff that make the difference on a busy day. A great FBO is a head start on a successful flight.”

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