Ocean Sky adds Luton FBO facility

 - February 27, 2009, 12:11 PM

Ocean Sky is to open a new FBO at London Luton Airport on March 30. The UK company has signed a lease on the facility formerly occupied by Harrods Aviation before it developed its current facilities at the airport. This is situated on Luton’s south ramp and is immediately parallel to the runway.

The expansion is being spearheaded by the group’s new Ocean Sky Jet Centres subsidiary, which is led by newly appointed CEO Steve Grimes. Ocean Sky is also active in executive charter and owns FBOs at Prestwick in Scotland and at Manchester in the northwest of England.

The company has plans to establish a network of FBOs across Europe and is currently in the advanced stages of pursuing two other opportunities in both the FBO and MRO sectors. Sweden is one possible location for a new base.

According to Grimes, the current downturn in business aviation activity is a good time for building an FBO network with the backing of investors who have a long-term strategy. Ocean Sky’s main backer is a group of trust companies based in Luxembourg. He said that the opportunity to establish a presence at Luton would probably not have arisen a year or two ago. Then, the airport was still in growth mode, hosting new services such as the now-bankrupt Silverjet all-business-class operation.

London Luton Airport, situated 30 miles north of downtown, has become one of the UK capital’s main business aviation gateways. At the same time, it has seen rapid growth in low-cost airline services, and last year this resulted in mandatory full slot coordination. However, Grimes said that there is still plenty of capacity outside the peak hours of 6:30 to 8 a.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. and added that even in these peak times non-scheduled flights can still operate.

“Signature and Harrods [the airport’s two existing FBOs] are not satisfying demand because they are having to turn traffic away at peak times due to their limited capacity for handling and parking,” Grimes told AIN. He said that parking stands are the main limiting factor at Luton. Ocean Sky is leasing its own ramp area and will be able to provide hangar accommodation through a third party. Eventually, it may secure its own hangar building.

The company is buying its own fuel truck and will sell Shell jet-A directly to avoid delivery delays for operators. It intends to compete primarily on service quality with Luton’s established FBOs and will differentiate itself with new offerings such as complimentary back and neck massages for passengers and crew.