Florida FBO focuses on amenities

 - March 27, 2007, 7:03 AM

Florida FBO focuses
on amenities
Plenty of FBOs at popular destinations offer movie rooms with giant projector screens, comfortable seating and popcorn machines, but Avitat Boca Raton at South Florida’s Boca Raton Airport might be the only FBO with its own movie theater. The FBO is located next door to the Muvico Palace 20, a movie theater famous for its stadium seating, full bar and dinner-plus-movie balcony auditoriums.

The location of the Palace 20 isn’t coincidental; the founder of Muvico launched Avitat Boca Raton in November 2004, mainly because there wasn’t enough parking space to handle all the Muvico traffic, and there was a convenient piece of property on the airport next to the theater. But airport property comes with special requirements, usually in the form of airport minimum standards, one of which was that the landowner has to provide FBO services.

Anyone who has visited Avitat Boca Raton–rated number 10 in last year’s AIN FBO Survey and number six this year–can see that it’s not an ordinary FBO. The architecture has an oddly familiar Greco-Mediterranean flavor, which is no surprise because the design replicates elements of the movie theater next door. Just inside the entrance, which is a two-story porte-cochere that transitions travelers between the FBO lobby and the street-side entrance, sits a reproduction of the ancient Greek statue, the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The portico’s stone floor outlines an elegant map of North and South America.

The terminal building is attached to Avitat Boca’s largest hangar, a 28,000-sq-ft building. That and three other smaller hangars are full with tenant aircraft, and there really isn’t room to build more despite strong demand at the airport. The FBO’s parking lot, which serves as overflow space for the Palace 20, has room for 499 cars. Aircraft owners’ cars are parked on the ramp side, then washed and on hot days stocked with cold bottled water just before the owners touch down at Boca Raton.

Inside the FBO, visitors enjoy free gourmet coffee and tea and freshly baked cookies, WSI weather in the planning room, wireless Internet access, a snooze room, pilot lounge, conference room and multiple plasma tvs. Pilots and passengers staying for a while are offered free movie passes to the Palace 20. The theater’s restaurant serves lunch, too, so pilots waiting at the FBO don’t have to venture away from the airport to find a good meal.

Avitat Boca serves many customers with homes in the area and will deliver passengers and baggage home in a company van. Pilots who prefer to spend time on a golf course instead of in a dark movie theater can opt for a free golf pass to one of the many local courses. Customer service reps keep a current posting of upcoming activities such as art shows, sports events and boat shows to help visitors find interesting local events.

Avitat Boca Raton welcomes aviation-related events and in early February hosted the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom 2007 B-17 and B-24 tour. Overflow traffic from this year’s Super Bowl landed at Boca Raton, too, due to the airport’s location well outside restricted airspace in Miami.

In its first year, Avitat Boca Raton sold more than 1 million gallons of fuel, then 2 million during the second year. “This year is looking good for market share on the field,” said general manager Rhonda Hughes, with many months exceeding 50-percent market share in favor of Avitat Boca.

Hughes has worked at Avitat Boca Raton since it opened. She started with Avitat Boca Raton as customer relations manager then moved into the general manager position about a year-and-a-half ago.

Hughes is a hands-on manager, greeting customers on the ramp and spending time with them instead of in her second-floor office. She also participates in Exxon’s Avitat council, helping select new Avitats, setting Avitat standards and sharing ideas about customer service. All Avitat Boca employees are trained and certified in the Avitat Premier Care program and in NATA’s Safety 1st system.

Avitat Boca employees are rewarded for delivering excellent service, and the FBO holds lunches to celebrate accident- and incident-free periods. Hughes also rewards individual employees with free dinner and movie passes at the Palace 20 next door. “I wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for the employees, and I want to show them that I appreciate their hard work.”

For Hughes, Avitat Boca Raton is more than just an FBO. “I am a true believer in great customer service,” she said, “and making pilots and passengers feel at home while in our facility.”