Execair opens its first FBO in the Caribbean

 - May 8, 2008, 6:49 AM

Last month, Execair completed a new $700,000 FBO on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. This will be the group’s 14th executive handling facility worldwide as it seeks to build a 25-strong chain of international FBOs.

The company, which is part of the UK-based Menzies Aviation Group (MAG), has also just rebranded the former Ogden Executive Jet FBO at São Paulo, Brazil, under the Execair name, following Menzies’ acquisition of Ogden in 2000. The chain already encompasses the following European locations: Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, East Midlands, Birmingham, Bournemouth and Cardiff in the UK; Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Prague in the Czech Republic; and Belgium’s Brussels South Charleroi Airport. Menzies bought Execair in 1999 when it had just five bases.

According to commercial director David Best, Execair’s expansion program will largely follow in the footsteps of MAG’s airline passenger and air freight handling businesses, which now span 79 airports in 23 countries. New FBOs will be opened only in standalone facilities and with staff dedicated to executive handling. “We’re not looking to build something really fancy, but the facilities need to be clean, comfortable and convenient,” Best told AIN. All FBOs follow a coordinated operations manual and staff are trained to be qualified for all handling tasks to maximize responsiveness and efficiency.

Execair’s next new FBO is most likely to be in Europe, and will be established either through an acquisition or a partnership. France, one of four European countries where MAG recently gained handling licenses, is a target market. So too is Spain, where it has handling contracts at 13 airports, and Italy, where MAG has a 50/50 handling joint venture with Rome airports group Aeroporti di Roma. A three-year non-compete clause in MAG’s sale of former facilities in Germany bars it from reentering the handling market there until next August.

Mexico is also viewed as fertile territory for new FBOs due to its rising business aviation activity and the fact that MAG is already active at 20 Mexican airports.

Over the past 12 months, Execair has made substantial investments to refurbish the FBOs at Dublin (formerly Parc Aviation) with a new lounge and additional ground transportation; Prague (formerly Ogden); Bournemouth; and São Paulo. It has also relocated its East Midlands operation, doubled the size of its Glasgow lounge, opened the new Shannon base and installed a new fuel facility at Edinburgh. Aberdeen and Edinburgh are next on the list for further upgrades.

Best said traffic volumes at Execair FBOs have been erratic over the past year, with unpredictable alternating quiet and busy months. September bookings looked strong at press time.

On September 10, Menzies reported a marked improvement in trading conditions for the handling business generally. It said that MAG had generated a profit every month since March, reversing the sharp decline experienced in the latter months of last year. Nonetheless, in the six months to June 29, MAG had an operating loss of £600,000 ($900,000) compared with a £1.3 million ($2 million) profit in the same period last year.

According to Best, one upshot of post-September 11 security concerns is that corporate crews tend not to release flight plans until the last minute. This means that FBOs start the week with very bleak sales prospects and can then find themselves overwhelmed.

Execair follows the usual European FBO practice of having unbundled, a la carte handling charges. It has tried to standardize prices throughout its European network.