London FBO focuses on Middle Eastern clients

 - November 3, 2008, 9:46 AM

London Biggin Hill Airport is set to get a new FBO, with Bahrain-based executive charter operator Rizon Jet having begun construction of a facility that it hopes to open next August. According to Rizon Group CEO Will Curtis, the FBO will be tailored to the needs of Middle Eastern aircraft owners and passengers, and serve as a base for Rizon’s plans to enter the European charter market.

The Rizon FBO will offer an alternative to Biggin Hill’s own terminal building, as well as the existing FBO operated by Jet Aviation. It will occupy a site that was previously earmarked for the new business aviation enclave Air Partner planned to build, largely to support its own charter operation. This facility will now be built on the other side of the airport where the charter broker can build a hangar high enough to accommodate aircraft up to the size of a Boeing Business Jet. 

Rizon’s building will comply with Islamic Sharia law in terms of catering arrangements, prayer rooms and features such as unveiling booths for women passengers. The company is spending about $15 million on the new 140,000-sq-ft FBO. According to Curtis, Middle Eastern customers expect a level of service higher than that currently offered by many European FBOs.

Curtis sees Biggin Hill–12 miles southeast of central London–as better situated for flights to and from the Middle East because aircraft can quickly reach their cruise altitude without having to make detours to avoid restricted airspace on other sides of the UK capital.

Last year, Rizon was acquired by Qatar’s Ghanem Bin Saad al-Saad group, which is investing around $180 million in the company. Currently, it operates its own Hawker 900XP and manages a Premier I for a private owner. Over the course of the next two years, it is due to take delivery of another 900XP, three Challenger 605s, five reconfigured CRJ200s and a Global Express.

Rizon aims to break into the aircraft management market in the UK. It sees potential for exploiting the differences in peak charter demand between the Middle East, where winter is the busiest season, and Europe, where more capacity is required during the summer. The company also believes that having bases in both regions will position it well to turn deadhead flights into revenue-yielding operations.

Curtis has recruited a team with extensive experience in business aviation services. They have begun the process of establishing a UK aircraft operator’s certificate, as well as applying for European EASA 145 maintenance approval.