European FBOs dominated the results of a recent survey of worldwide business aircraft ground-handling operations conducted by Aviation International News (sister publication to EBACE Convention News). Outside the Americas, European FBOs accounted for 37 out of the 40 top-ranked companies, with Dubai in the United Arab Emirates boasting two of the other three FBOs (Jet Aviation and Executive Flight Services) and Hong Kong the third (Signature Flight Support).
TAG Aviation’s Farnborough Airport operation was saluted by the pilots voting in the survey as the top FBO outside the Americas. Close behind in third position was TAG’s Geneva FBO, which also had a third operation in the high rankings–its Berlin, Germany operation holding the number 25 slot.
The survey respondents’ praise for TAG Farnborough (Booth No. 1120) is vindication of the company’s major commitment in terms of both time and money to convert the former military airfield into a dedicated business aviation gateway for the London area. The FBO clearly benefits from the fact that TAG has full control of the airport (under a 99-year lease from the Ministry of Defence) and the very substantial investment it has made in its impressive terminal building and adjoining hangars. But Brandon O’Reilly, chief executive of TAG Farnborough Airport, has also brought in management from an elite hotel to take its customer service standards to a new level.
Jet Aviation (Booth No. 776) was another leading business aviation services group that scored well in the AIN survey. In addition to its Dubai facility, several other of its bases achieved acclaim: its operation at Geneva (ranked fifth jointly with MES Handling of Munich, Germany), London Biggin Hill (10th), Dusseldorf in Germany (in 16th position along with Vienna Aircraft Handling in Austria) and Zurich, Switzerland (tied for 19th with Abelag Aviation of Brussels, Belgium).
Improvements Pay Off
Signature Flight Support (Booth No. 921) will be pleased to see that its Hong Kong FBO achieved the number-two ranking overall. But it also achieved recognition in Europe, with its facilities at London Stansted Airport, Edinburgh (UK), Shannon (Ireland) and Paris all making it into the Top 40. Its FBO at the Irish capital Dublin was not far behind.
“Within the region we are continually investing in facility improvement,” said David Best, Signature Flight Support managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Signature has invested in lounge and ground transportation improvements across many sites. Among the most noticeable change in Europe is the infrastructure improvement in Paris, which is ongoing and gaining positive customer feedback.
The London Stansted Airport FBO of flight planning group Universal Weather & Aviation (Booth No. 1420) achieved the 11th position in the rankings, while its Athens, Greece facility achieved 22nd position, Paris Le Bourget, 24th and its Rome and Madrid bases in the 32nd and 33rd slots, respectively.
ExecuJet Aviation’s Zurich, Switzerland facility achieved eighth position in the international FBO rankings. The company, which has strong sales and product support ties to Bombardier’s business aircraft family, also operates FBOs at Copenhagen Roskilde and Berlin Schönefeld airports, as well as in Dubai, Johannesburg and Cape Town (both in South Africa) and Sydney, Australia.
Paris Le Bourget is arguably the most competitive market for business aircraft handling in Europe with some six FBOs there vying for customer loyalty. Dassault Falcon Service (Booth No. 1101) was ranked first among these, achieving ninth position overall.
Competition Good for Business
Dassault has moved its service team into the main passenger area of the FBO, which gives the team the best view of the apron, allowing them to better coordinate arrivals and departures. Over the next few months, the company will be renovating its pilot lounges to make them more conducive to relaxation, while also providing more of the facilities the pilots need to prepare for flights.
The 2007 survey essentially confirmed a core finding of virtually all previous AIN investigations: at locations where FBOs face real competition (and by definition have high levels of business aviation traffic) service standards are invariably higher. The survey affirms that if you are flying to any of Europe’s key business aviation gateways, such as London, Paris, Geneva and Zurich, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to high-quality FBOs.
But once again, the survey results also highlight some outstanding service achievers at not so prominent locations. For instance, the small, family-owned Service People operation in Hamburg, Germany is at the top of the rankings, as it has been before.
Breaking into the higher reaches of the results are FBOs such as Eccelsa in Olbia on the Italian island of Sardinia and Mallorcair in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. By providing convenient and exclusive access to top European resorts, both of these companies largely serve the growing number of customers who are using business aircraft for leisure trips.
Full details of the international FBO survey are published in the May edition of AIN, along with a special report on the industry.