The constellation of FBOs at Paris Le Bourget Airport expanded to seven last month with the official opening of Astonsky, a division of the Clair Group.
The company’s Astonjet charter division is based at the Paris-area dedicated business aviation airport, so when BBA Aviation made one of the facilities Signature Flight Support operates there available, Clair Group leaped at the opportunity to establish its own FBO. The company has previous flight support experience, operating a small FBO and its flight school Astonfly at GA-only Toussus le Noble Airport, one of the busiest airports in all of France, but the Le Bourget FBO represented a major advance.
While its name and those of its sister divisions play off the word “astonish,” the FBO looks to do just that by disrupting the market at Le Bourget and raising the bar with five-star service. Indeed, noted Clair, the staff was recruited from the finest hotels in Paris, as well as from its competing service providers at Le Bourget. “It’s not just from your car to the airplane,” he said. “We can offer to clients a really new luxury experience.” The disruptive part he said, comes from its pricing. “In this case, we are not at a different price than our competitors, we are the same price, but the difference is the services and the spaces that you can find in our FBO.”
In January, the company acquired Signature’s former Terminal 2 and spent the next 10 months gutting and totally renovating the 1990-vintage facility, at a total cost of more than $11 million, leaving only the elevator unchanged, according to president Charles Clair. With construction taking place six days a week and sometimes at night, original hopes of an opening in time for the Paris Air Show this past summer proved overly optimistic, according to Clair. “We tried, but unfortunately we were not able to, with the planning of all the work.”
The grand opening instead took place on October 17 as the company unveiled its new 75,000-sq-ft, six-floor terminal and office complex, which also houses Astonjet, with work continuing right up to the debut.
The showpiece of the facility, located on the north side of the airport near Runway 27, is the more-than-10,000-sq-ft ground-floor passenger lounge/lobby, which features panoramic views of the ramp and the runway, a 1,600-gallon saltwater aquarium, central fireplace, a bar area, and embedded in the floor, a 3,000-bottle wine cellar with a thick glass ceiling that guests can walk over. It is stocked exclusively with the finest French wines. “Passengers can buy some bottles that they can share in the lounge, or they can keep it to drink in the airplane,” said Clair.
Upstairs, a 3,200-sq-ft private, secure VIP lounge caters to more discrete clients, either individuals or groups, with its own chef-served dining area, conference table, sofas, and a private bathroom with shower.
Customs and security are handled in the lower level of the terminal in a separate discrete area, equipped with its own x-ray and metal-detection equipment and its own access to the ramp. “We’ve got dedicated space for Customs for departure and arrival in a specific area because we do not want the Customs to perform their control directly in the lounge in view of all the passengers,” said Clair.
Flight crews have their own dedicated areas, as well, from a glass-enclosed flight briefing/planning room downstairs to a 2,150-sq-ft pilot lounge upstairs with televisions, espresso machine, snacks, four bed-furnished snooze rooms, shower facilities, and games.
The complex is open 24/7 and has a staff of 35. It also includes 54,000 sq ft of hangar space with 26.25-foot-high doors that can shelter aircraft up to a Dassault 7X. It is home to Astonjet’s fleet which currently consists of eight Cessna Citation Mustangs, one Citation M2, and a pair of Latitudes. The company expects to add a Gulfstream G280 and its own Falcon 7X shortly. Another launch tenant is fractional ownership provider Jetfly, which operates one of the continent’s largest fleets of Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops and PC-24 light jets and has several aircraft based at the Le Bourget facility. Clair said his company is in negotiations with the owner of a Falcon 2000 and a Falcon 8X, which he expects to move into the hangar in a few weeks.
The three-acre leasehold also includes more than 170,000 sq ft of ramp space, enough to accommodate any size aircraft.
Fueling at Le Bourget is generally handled directly with the several fuel providers, but Astonsky has a preferred supplier agreement with Shell and World Fuel, and while more expensive than dealing directly, operators can purchase fuel through the FBO.
Deicing is available through an airport sub-contractor and catering is provided through a variety of local provisioners including Air Culinaire and OnAir Catering. The FBO offers onsite car rental through Sixt and has concierge service.
For now, Clair has his hands full with the new location, he said, with no current plans for Astonsky’s expansion. “Not for the moment,” he told AIN. “We [will] learn our job, and after that, we can see better.”