Universal Aviation has opened an FBO at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport. The 24/7 facility offers ground handling, fuel and trip-support services, as well as concierge and customs, immigration and quarantine. The Venice base augments the company’s three other Italian bases at Rome Ciampino Airport and Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports.
Despite recent difficulties in the country arising from potentially punitive taxes on business aviation, Universal remains bullish about prospects for its new venture. “Even in the current economic climate, our three Universal Aviation locations in Italy have experienced increased movements year-over-year. Based on growth patterns and client demand, Venice was a logical choice for expansion of our global footprint,” said Jonathan Howells, EMEA vice president for the handling operation’s parent group Universal Weather and Aviation (Stand 7080).
Meanwhile in London, Universal Aviation’s FBO at Stansted Airport is to be completely refurbished in time for the Olympics this summer. The renovation includes additional and remodeled lounges and new amenities such as a shower and waiting rooms and free WiFi. The company claims that Stansted offers plenty of parking, and can accommodate aircraft up to a Boeing 747 in size, and offers greater slot availability than other slot-coordinated airports in the London area.
“We are going to upgrade and standardize our facilities globally, starting at Stansted where we have strong competitors in Inflite and Harrods,” Howells told AIN. “All our facilities over the next 12 to 18 months will have some degree of improvement. There has perhaps been a mistake I the past [on the part of many FBOs] to overengineer the passenger arrangements and refocus on crew improvements since more of them are now wanting to have day-time rest.” Universal is also investing in stronger branding for its FBOs.
Universal Aviation UK general manager Jason Hayward pointed out that it is not too late to plan a trip to the Olympics, but cautioned that options will become more limited as the event draws closer. “As with any trip to a major world event, the key to success is preplanning,” he said. “We’ve been working behind the scenes for over a year planning for the influx of traffic to the games, and are available to provide consultation to operators. We will work with them to review their schedule and plan.”
Hayward pointed out that some London FBOs have been demanding full payment for handling services ahead of the Olympics. He suggested that this approach could prove problematic if the operators concerned subsequently could not get slots for the airports of choice and had to land elsewhere.
Universal’s Stansted base said it has been “very pleased” with the level of advance bookings for slots, 75 percent of which have been made by operators from North America. “Some operators have tried to hedge their bets [in terms of where they will want to fly] by booking at multiple airports but [slot-allocation company] ACL has been monitoring this and will simply cancel all their slots,” warned Hayward.
Europe is proving to be a fruitful environment for Universal, which also recently signed a cooperation agreement with Dublin’s AeroMedevac. The Irish air ambulance company provides transport for medical assistance providers, as well as private medical insurers.
Generally, Universal has a substantial international profile with more staff employed at its growing number of sites around the world than at its headquarters in Houston, Texas. Howells indicated that more of its services are being delivered on a regional basis. The company also recently opened an office in Girona, Spain.
At the same time, Universal has continued to invest in new systems to streamline its flight- planning and support operations. It is about to introduce a new version of its operations system so that all back-office functions can be managed through it no matter where an operator is in the world.
New Insurance Deal Offered To Universal Clients
Universal Weather & Aviation is announcing its own new insurance service at EBACE in conjunction with Zurich-headquartered brokers LFV Aviation. LFV’s core business is jet and turbine aircraft, and it specializes in managing large aircraft fleet policies. Greg Evans, Universal’s chairman said, “We have received considerable feedback from our clients, who have asked us for a solution on acquiring reliable aviation insurance,” said Universal chairman Greg Evans. “LFV has a strong global footprint, and offers very competitive insurance rates.”