EBACE Convention News

Le Bourget FBOs Invest More to Conquer a Tight Market

 - May 22, 2014, 7:45 AM

Uncertain market conditions have done little to deter FBOs at Paris Le Bourget Airport from investing in development projects for their facilities. Most recently, Universal Aviation on April 30 officially opened its completely refurbished facility in the French capital. On June 12, Landmark Aviation (Booth 615) is set to unveil its own upgrade, and this will be followed in October by the opening of a new four-star Marriott hotel in November and a new entrance to the airport on the east side of the site.

In 2015, Advanced Air Support, which is partnered with ExecuJet Aviation (Booth 5629), is set to move into its new building, acquired from Air France Industries. In 2016, Embraer Executive Jets (Booth 6615) expects to double the size of its existing maintenance and customer support operation, with the opening of a new 64,585-sq-ft (6,000-sq-m) facility at the Dugny site on the west side of the airport, for which construction work is starting in September. Dassault Falcon Service (Booth 1034) has also continued to expand its capacity and capability at the airport.

Le Bourget has long laid claim to being Europe’s busiest business aviation airport, but it too was hit by the decline in traffic sparked by the 2008 financial crisis. “It’s true that the fall-out from the crisis continues to pull down our activity levels, but we hope to see stabilization during 2014,” said François Charritat, who manages Le Bourget for the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) group (Booth 4242C).

In 2013, the 54,371 movements were slightly down on 2012 and several thousand down on the 58,000-plus movements seen before 2008. This is part of a wider European trend that, according to statistics reported by the European Business Aviation Association (Booth 611), saw a 2.4 percent dip in total movements in 2013. This trend seems to be slowly improving with figures for March just 1.1 percent down on totals for the same month in 2013.

Le Bourget’s seven FBOs have been toughing it out in this challenging business environment. “It’s difficult to boost the flow of traffic if clients are simply flying less and coming to Paris less often,” said Universal senior international vice president Jonathan Howells. The desire to ensure it can maximize its market share is what has motivated Universal (Booth 6534) to continuing investing in its facility, which also benefits from having almost 345,000 sq ft (32,000 sq m) of ramp space for aircraft parking and a 32,000-sq-ft (3,000-sq-m) hangar used purely for covered parking because Universal is not a maintenance provider.

Meanwhile, Landmark has invested approximately $3.4 million on its new 12,900-sq-ft (1,200-sq-m) building, which is located just next to the 3,767-sq-ft (350-sq-m) facility it formerly occupied at Le Bourget. The FBO also offers 43,000 sq ft (4,000 sq m) of covered parking in a heated hangar. The layout and appearance of the new premises were developed by Californian interior designer Tammy Edmonds.

“Our facilities did not meet the standards of the Landmark Aviation group and so we decided to start with a new space, better optimized for our task and, above all, larger,” said Denis Bourgois, general manager of the Landmark Le Bourget FBO.

The facility employs 45 people and currently handles around 12,000 movements per year. It also now offers 193,756 sq ft (18,000 sq m) of ramp parking space and has the option to rent more space from ADP to accommodate larger aircraft. Texas-based Landmark provides all the standard FBO services in Paris, but has no aircraft maintenance capability there.

The Dubai-base Jetex Flight Support group (Booth 1229) is the most recent addition to the FBO cluster at Le Bourget, having established its new facility there in 2009. It is also well placed for providing outdoor parking space, with 215,285 sq ft (20,000 sq m) of ramp (but no hangar). It currently handles between 9,000 and 10,000 movements per year and employs 35 people in Paris.

Jetex’s 10,754-sq-ft (1,000-sq-m) building is one of the largest at Le Bourget. Of this, just over 4,300 sq ft (400 sq m) are dedicated for the exclusive use of fractional ownership provider NetJets, with which Jetex established a three-year support agreement in 2013 covering flights into Le Bourget. This part of the facility was completely renovated to meet the needs of NetJets, with its customers having their own lounge area, entrance and security screening post.

Dassault Falcon Service has focused on expanding the scope of its services rather than the physical size of its FBO. “Our strength is that we provide a secure, safe location in which we can guarantee the highest level of confidentiality for our clients and always a direct view of their aircraft,” explained Dassault’s head of FBO operations Andrea Pernoud.

The facility currently handles around 6,000 movements per year. Understandably, there is a strong emphasis on supporting operators of Dassault’s own Falcon jets, including the seven Falcons directly operated by the French airframer itself. There is a strong emphasis on maintenance, with all service from line support to C checks available on site. The capability includes an engineering department that can handle extensive airframe and cabin modifications, avionics upgrades and the addition of winglets. About 40 percent of all maintenance for the global fleet of Falcon jets is done at Le Bourget.

There is clear consensus among Le Bourget’s existing seven FBOs that there is excessive competition for the current and foreseen levels of traffic. By comparison, the New York-area Teterboro Airport has approximately 120,000 movements per year and yet only has five FBOs. But that fact flies in the face of rumors that an undisclosed Arabian Gulf company may be laying plans to open an eighth FBO for the French capital. ADP’s François Charritat played down this expectation while adding that it is by all means a possibility.