Harrods Aviation has unveiled a comprehensive redesign and refurbishment of its FBO at London Stansted Airport. In work spanning six months, the company has spent more than $1.5 million to give the place a fresh look.
The facility offers two large customer lounges–one equipped for VIP use and the other a more general business lounge. Additionally, the building has a separate VVIP lounge with its own restroom, which provides complete privacy for passengers, including heads of state.
According to the company, the makeover has made better use of the existing structure, with a significant emphasis on robust soft furnishings and improvements to the heating and air-conditioning system. On both the ground- and airside of the facility, the design shows a clear connection to the branding of the Harrods retail group, of which Harrods Aviation is a subsidiary.
Harrods also now is operating its own fuel trucks at both Stansted and at its second FBO at London Luton Airport. As a result, customers no longer have to endure refueling delays waiting for airline fuel trucks to travel from the other side of the airport.
Redevelopment work has also had to take into account the latest security rules (as part of the European Union’s EC300/2008 regulations) to ensure that all requirements for passenger and crew screening can be met while minimizing inconvenience. Harrods now pays to have immigration and customs clearance available on their own premises after UK officials determined that if they did not arriving passengers and crew would have to be processed in the main airport terminal.
Last year, Harrods (Booth No. 1039) made significant investments at its Luton base, which now boasts two large hangars. The company built a new hangar at Stansted a few years ago and, at the same time, extended the ramp there.
The Luton FBO layout is similar to that at Stansted, with one large lounge area and two separate VIP suites (one of which has its own restroom). There is direct airside access and ample parking for both aircraft and cars.
After an industry-wide dip in traffic volume during 2009, Harrods reported that the early months of 2010 have seen a positive, but not major increase in business. The company’s FBOs are busier than they were during the same period last year and it describes itself as “cautiously optimistic” about this trend continuing. The Harrods FBOs have noted a general increase in the average size of aircraft they have been handling, even throughout the downturn period.
According to Harrods, the secrets to its success as a business aircraft handler are that it has continued to invest in hiring, training and retaining the best staff. It trains its personnel to be sensitive to the varying requirements and preferences of a diverse client base that includes multicultural pilots and passengers.
In recent years, the Harrods team has found operators to be far more proactive in terms of wanting detailed assurances about what services will be provided and at what price. These operators are less inclined to hand everything over to a flight planning firm and want to be sure that they get value for every aspect of the trip.
Harrods has also reported that the aircraft maintenance side of its business has held up well.
The company has full Part M approval as a Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization and focuses on support for the Hawker and Bombardier families of business aircraft, as well as for Sikorsky and AgustaWestland helicopters. Harrods recently added the Challenger 300 to its capabilities and has U.S., EASA and Bermudan approvals to work on the type. It is now looking to extend its Sikorsky capability, and wants to be able to offer more STC modifications.
At Farnborough Airport, also in the London area, Harrods operates a factory-approved service center for Honeywell engines such as the TFE731 series of turbofans. The company reports this operation has been very busy over the past
12 months, with growing demand to provide aircraft-on-the-ground support for engines throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The Air Harrods helicopter charter operation has also held up well during the recession, with the company reporting only a minor dip in demand. It believes that this is because it concentrates on the upper end of the market where demand is reportedly more stable. The fleet consists only of twin-engine types such as the AgustaWestland A109 and the Sikorsky S-76 and large-cabin S-92 (complete with a toilet and a gun rack for hunting parties).