Universal Aviation last month inaugurated its newly refurbished FBO at Paris Le Bourget Airport. The extensive program of improvements includes fully remodeled crew and passenger lounges, business center, meeting rooms and private screening areas. Ramp space has also been increased with the addition of 130,182 sq ft (12,094 sq m) of parking space, taking the total area to 323,000 sq ft (30,000 sq m).
The new look was developed by interior designer Adriana Hoyos, who chose a silver motif for most of the redecorated areas with the aim of creating an ambiance of calm and luxury. “She was inspired by our FBO at London Stansted,” said Universal Aviation’s senior international vice president Jonathan Howells. The Stansted facility was modernized in 2012 as part of a rolling program of upgrades for the U.S.-based group’s FBO chain.
The 1,219-sq-ft (120 sq m) main building incorporates four waiting rooms for passengers, with separate space for crew. In the main reception area there is a bar and large television screen.
The layout of the FBO remains simple and functional because Universal’s main objective remains that passengers should spend minimal time in the FBO but while they are there should be able to enjoy some comfort and peace. “We want to give our customers a luxury experience but above all they want to get to their aircraft quickly,” said Sandrine Jackson, Universal’s managing director for France.
The FBO now features a single position for conducting passenger and baggage security checks, which is intended to simplify this process. On this basis, it should take no longer than three minutes for passengers to board their aircraft. Universal handles around 6,000 movements each year at Le Bourget and, with each aircraft carrying two or three passengers, this means between 15,000 and 18,000 passengers passing through the FBO each year.
In addition to passenger and crew rest areas, Universal’s Le Bourget location, which it has occupied for 25 years, also includes a flight operations center. Seven years ago, Universal (Booth 6563) added a 32,292-sq-ft (3,000 sq m) hangar. Between this covered space and the large ramp area, the FBO can accommodate all sizes of private aircraft, up to airliner widebody models such as the Airbus A330/340 and the Boeing 777. More than a third of the ramp space is dedicated to widebody aircraft.
Universal’s redevelopment of its Le Bourget facility, which employs 32 people, is a direct response to the increasingly tough competition it faces from other FBOs in challenging market conditions. Despite the fact that the airport saw a 3.9-percent drop in overall traffic in 2013, it still has no fewer than seven FBOs. “That’s a lot; perhaps even too many,” commented Howells.
The goal for Universal is to offer the same level of service in the French capital as it does at its other 47 sites throughout 19 countries worldwide. The company also now employs a representative responsible for supporting operators using airports in the south of France, including Cannes, Marseille and Le Castellet.
The Houston, Texas-based Universal Weather & Aviation group, which was founded in 1959 and also includes flight-planning and trip-support operations, is aiming to be one of the largest business aviation service providers in the world. Annual revenues currently stand at around $1 billion, and Howells told AIN the group is well placed financially to withstand the onslaught of a highly competitive FBO marketplace.