St. Petersburg joins the jet set with new FBOs

 - April 2, 2013, 3:50 AM

The new Pulkovo-3 FBO in St. Petersburg, Russia, officially opened for business on March 6, initially handling only domestic flights. According to operator JetPort, the purpose-built facility will be ready to handle international flights this month once customs and immigration facilities are fully in place.

The new private terminal occupies a 24-acre lot at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo International Airport, between the Pulkovo-1 domestic airline passenger complex and the main cargo warehouse. Described by JetPort SPb as “the first center for business aviation in the northwest region [of Russia],” Pulkovo-3 is said to have “all necessary facilities,” offering “a full spectrum of services at the center and outside, including long-term [aircraft] parking.”

The main element of the FBO is a 43,000-sq-ft, two-floor business aviation terminal immediately adjacent to Pulkovo’s apron area number six with space for parking approximately 28 aircraft. When AIN visited the facility on March 12, the ramp was occupied by a Learjet, a couple of Challengers, a Falcon and a Gulfstream.

The next phase of JetPort SPb’s privately funded $65 million development is slated for completion late this year or early next. This will include hangars large enough to accommodate three Boeing Business Jets or as many as 18 midsize jets. It will also include a covered and heated area for the FBO’s ground support equipment and vehicles.

JetPort SPb general manager Sergei Pugin says that the major investments made will take several years to recoup, signaling that the company’s backers are in the FBO business for the long haul. JetPort SPb is a partner company to the RusAero group, which also includes Moscow’s Vnukovo-3 business aviation center and VIPport FBO.

All 150 JetPort SPb employees are from the St Petersburg area, and many of them are graduates of the city’s prestigious Civil Aviation Academy.

JetPort SPb holds all necessary certificates from local aviation authorities for ground handling and passenger services. The company was founded in May 2009 and began operations in October 2009 using rented space in the Pulkovo-2 international terminal.

The new FBO offers handling and flight-planning services, in addition to arranging ground transportation and common concierge services such as hotel and entertainment bookings.

According to Pugin, the FBO’s handling prices are somewhat below those of the Moscow FBOs.

Facilities for Domestic and International Passengers

The Pulkovo-3 terminal was designed with lessons in mind from earlier private terminals in the Moscow area. With a nominal capacity of 1,500 passengers per day, it looks fairly similar to Moscow’s Vnukovo-3, but with two rather than three floors, and a main entrance in the center of the building.

The main difference between FBOs in Russia and most European countries is that the Russian facilities allocate a lot more space for passengers than flight crew and other personnel. The reason for this is that Russian law requires both international and domestic passengers (whether traveling by scheduled airline or business jet) to pass formalities on departure and arrival.

Unlike the main Vnukovo-3 building, which is an international terminal (there is a separate terminal for domestic flights nearby), Pulkovo-3 combines the handling of international passengers, domestic passengers, crews flying international flights and crews operating domestic services. Russian law demands that these have to be isolated, and Pulkovo-3 was designed to accommodate this mandate.

Immediately after entering the building, travelers go through a metal detector and their baggage passes through a scanner. Then they proceed to a reception desk in the middle of the hall to check the status of their flight. Then they can relax in the ample space with comfortable sofas and chairs in large numbers. Also, there is a smart-looking bar on the right of the entrance.

Those who need to proceed immediately take either the left lane (for international flights, with passport control and customs) or the right lane (domestic). After passing all checks and formalities, the international passengers can relax in a comfortable departure zone, including a bar and duty-free shop, and domestic passengers have everything except duty-free.

All travelers can access Wi-Fi, Russian and foreign magazines and newspapers, digital TV and so on. There are separate arrival zones for incoming flights.

Meeting rooms are also available in the terminal. The second floor is for JetPort SPb staff and representatives of partner companies, including business jet operators. Flight crews enter the building through a separate entrance in the right-hand corner and are provided with a comfortable crew rest area.

Except for Moscow, with its modern FBOs at Vnukovo, Domodedovo and Sheremetievo airports, the rest of Russia is nearly devoid of dedicated business aviation infrastructure. But the country’s second-largest city surely deserves a first-class FBO of its own.

In addition to its reputation as a cultural gem, St. Petersburg has a thriving industrial sector that includes no fewer than eight automotive factories, vibrant shipyards and a number of other industrial plants recently reopened after a downturn in the 1990s.