Signature Flight Support is bringing its TailWins customer loyalty program to Europe. The program comes to this side of the Atlantic just as the FBO network is gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London by adding more capacity.
TailWins, which was introduced in the U.S. earlier this year, rewards both fuel and handling services purchases. Points can be earned at any Signature location or any other location that accepts the Signature Flight Support Aviation Card–some 7,500 locations worldwide.
According to Joe Gibney, Signature’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, program rewards are “tailored to the specific desires of our global and local customers” because the rewards catalogue is different in each market it serves. By way of example, Gibney said, “The rewards catalogue available in the U.S. is different from the one that is available in the UK, which in turn is different from the ones available in France and Germany. It is tailored to the specific desires of our local customers across the globe.”
Gibney said the company also is growing its network globally through the new Signature Select program that enables independent FBOs to benefit from Signature’s buying power, sales, marketing and training, which can translate into more business. To join the program, an FBO must first undergo a quality audit and then agree to periodic re-auditing. Customers using these facilities benefit from the “Signature experience” and level of service where it was not previously available, Gibney said.
Signature (Stand 827) also is expanding its European sales force. Those representatives can assist customers in developing customized programs that optimize budgets and flying behavior based on an analysis of their flight profile.
The U.S.-based group can also assist their customers with on airport real estate needs. The company currently has 400,000 sq ft of hangar space under management in Europe and has a dedicated team to sell and manage it. Gibney explained that at Paris Le Bourget, Europe’s busiest business aviation location, real estate customers will have the opportunity to brand their hangar facilities.
Olympics Loom Large
While London Heathrow Airport will be closed to business aviation during the Summer Olympics, July 27 to August 12, customers who use the Signature facility outside this period will notice a new and important change. Previously Heathrow customers were forced to use the outside-the-fence facility at Aviation House. Now they can use the Royal Suite stand-alone facility inside the fence as part of the GA Pathway Service. The Royal Suite is used by royalty and government heads-of-state when arriving and departing Heathrow.
“We now have a proper FBO at Heathrow with landside parking, adjacent to an aircraft parking ramp with dedicated security,” Gibney told AIN. “It is the first time Heathrow customers will be able to offer the full Signature experience there.”
Signature has locations at 12 airports in the UK and has been gearing up for the Olympics since last year. Currently, 300 aircraft are registered for arrivals at its bases during the games.
Most of those will be coming into Luton, seen as the hub for most related bizav activity, but other airports also will come into play. To handle the overflow from Luton, Signature is setting up a temporary FBO 10 miles to the north at Cranfield Airport. One of the runways there will be closed to facilitate additional parking. Cranfield will be staffed by employees displaced by the temporary closing of Signature Heathrow during the games and by redeploying personnel from other European locations as needed. More than 50 aircraft already have registered for Cranfield during the games and Gibney expects more due to the location’s convenience and proximity.
Flying into the Olympics will be no small trick due to imposition of a slot system, airspace restrictions, and heightened security. Last year Signature established an Olympic hotline and dedicated e-mail address to handle registration and customer inquiries, 44 (0) 1582 434 670 or email@example.com. The hotline is designed to be a “one-stop shop” for all customer needs related to the games, including landing permits, customs, hotel, car rental and catering. Gibney again stressed the importance of making arrangements as early as possible.
While traffic volume year-to-date throughout Europe is down, Gibney expects a big boost from the Olympics and said that, otherwise, the company’s underlying business throughout Europe is strong. “We are there in a big way and we feel that our European market is well positioned to weather the current economic conditions.”
Signature is using its global reach to steer more traffic to its European facilities from other parts of the world. Last year the company opened a sales office in Bahrain, and this year, for the first time, it exhibited at the ABACE show in Shanghai, China. “We connect the dots” to meet the demands of global travelers, Gibney said.