This year’s AIN North American FBO survey, like its predecessors, is intended to be a pilots’ guide to the FBOs with which they do business. Although the survey’s ratings of individual FBOs give the appearance of a contest, this is not its purpose. There is no voting, only evaluations by pilots familiar with the service providers and facilities.
The categories in the survey were carefully chosen and adjusted over the years to reflect the evolving variety of services and facilities offered at FBOs that do business with business aviation.
The categories and the language of the cover letter sent to survey participants are designed expressly to emphasize the human side of the operations and de-emphasize the so-called bricks, mortar and glass aspects. It is significant that, among the four categories, “line service” consistently attracts the highest grades awarded by pilots. This indicates that line service technicians and customer service representatives, as a group, are doing a good job of making pilots look good.
While the colored-dot ratings are a valuable reflection of what pilots think of their airport hosts (see summary of the survey’s methodology on the back page of this insert), some of the statistics behind the statistics are also of interest.
As much as we at AIN prefer not to think of the survey as a contest, all eyes in FBO public affairs offices invariably gravitate toward the list of the 31 top-ranked operations (for 2005 there is a tie for the 29th position). This year, Wilson Air Center at Memphis, Tenn., continues its dominance, with top-scoring honors for the fifth consecutive year.
With its service philosophy based on owner Kemmons Wilson’s legacy as founder of the Holiday Inn motel chain, Wilson topped second-place finisher Southern Jet of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., by just .076 of a point. The latter stirs the pot in this year’s ratings, having catapulted an unprecedented 79 positions from its scores of last year.
Business Jet Center, the popular Love Field (Dallas) facility, moved up one notch this year, led by chairman and managing general partner Robert Wright, a Dallas resident for more than four decades. Also on the way up is Monterey (Calif.) Jet Center, rating fourth position this year–up from 11th last year. With 10 acres of ramp space and ample hangar storage available, the FBO also promises “discreet arrivals and departures,” a reflection of its role as a terminal geared for those in the entertainment industry. Rounding out the top five this year, Scottsdale Air Center (at SDL) makes another strong showing. Opened three years ago and led by former Toyota AirFlite general manager Tommy Walker, the Arizona FBO has created a buzz among pilots and passengers.
Pilots can have strong feelings about the FBOs they patronize. They are proud professionals in the service business themselves. As aviators, they are trained to have only the highest standards of safety and performance. Those standards translate to their service mentality as well. The relationship between a business pilot and an FBO is critical. The pilot depends on the FBO to meet or exceed the service standards each passenger encounters inside the cabin.
When pilots feel they, or their passengers, have been treated poorly, they are not shy about sharing their verdict. Conversely, when they find good service, they are equally quick to sing the praises of an outstanding FBO. The purpose of AIN’s FBO survey is to provide a formal, scientific vehicle for that exchange of information.