AIN Special Reports

AIN 2023 FBO Survey: EMEAA

 - May 1, 2023, 7:37 AM
Farnborough Airport has been the unchallenged top facility outside of the Americas for virtually its entire 20-year existence. (Photo: Farnborough)

As the urgent threat of the global pandemic that paralyzed much of the world for two years receded into history and travel restrictions dropped, private aviation traffic continued its resurgence last year. For Part 2 of this year’s FBO Survey, encompassing the rest of the world outside of the Americas, AIN spoke with service providers at leisure destinations and key business centers, many of whom reported record levels of private aircraft activities, surpassing pre-Covid levels.

According to Hamburg, Germany-based industry data tracker WingX Advance, global business jet departures were up 14 percent in 2022 compared with pre-Covid 2019. Last July, more than two years after it implemented some of the world’s strictest border restrictions, Australia finally dropped its remaining Covid-related travel qualifications and fully opened.

“Immediately after the reopening of borders, we saw a tremendous increase in charter and owner flying, coupled with high numbers of domestic and international FBO movements,” said Matthew Guy, ExecuJet’s regional FBO manager for the Asia--Pacific. “This trend continued throughout the year, making 2022 the busiest year on record for our Sydney facility.” WingX noted that 2022 business aviation departures for the region were up 32 percent in comparison with pre-Covid 2019.

In areas of less strict restrictions, some reaped the bounty of the private aviation boom even earlier. “At the beginning of 2020, with the pandemic creating panic all over the world, we were initially very concerned about having to face a strong trend inversion in the private aviation sector,” said Francesco Cossu, manager of Eccelsa Aviation, the service provider at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport in Sardinia. “In reality, we have experienced the opposite. Since the pandemic, all of those with the appropriate financial capacity are now more motivated to fly with a private jet.” WingX statistics show European business aircraft departures increased by 16 percent last year over 2019 levels.

Dominic Osbourne, Farnborough Airport’s FBO director, agreed: “If anything, Covid has reinforced the role and benefits of using private aviation,” he told AIN, adding, “after the summer season in 2022, the market slowed down a little and we are now seeing a more normalized profile, akin to pre-pandemic days.”

Among the concerns cited by FBOs is geopolitical stability, particularly in Europe where the current conflict has caused some measure of uncertaintly. “The Ukraine crisis has had an impact, especially sanctions impacting Russian traffic,” said Oliver Trono, general manager of Signature Flight Support’s Munich facility.

While Eccelsa Aviation experienced a strong year in 2022, Cossu believed the war affected his business as well. “The impact of the war in Ukraine has doubly affected a portion of our traffic,” he told AIN. “The number of Russian and also Ukrainian customers was significant. Very possibly if we had all the potential traffic, the numbers would have been more than great.”

One point that most of the FBOs AIN spoke to this year mentioned was increased interest from customers for more sustainable choices. “The environment is a hot topic for all both inside and outside of the industry,” said Sean Raftery, Universal Aviation’s senior director of international business for Northern Europe and Africa. “The industry is doing a lot with sustainable fuels and that is evolving quickly. We have seen some climate groups expressing their views, but we would rather engage with them than lock horns.”

Against this backdrop, AIN once again asked its readers to rate the FBOs they frequented over the past year. Last month we presented the results for Part 1, the Americas. Here now are the top-rated facilities outside of the Americas.    z

Editor’s Note: AIN is redesigning its website and updating the technology that powers the FBO Survey. As a result, the survey will not open in May 2023. We will provide more information and links to the survey in the coming months.

4.69 Farnborough Airport (EGLF), UK

While FBOs outside North America tend to lag in terms of scores, there are exceptions, and chief among them is London--area Farnborough Airport, which has been the unchallenged top facility outside of the Americas for virtually its entire 20-year existence as a CAA business aviation airport. A former military installation, Farnborough is the oldest airfield in the UK and will celebrate its centennial next year. 

Farnborough Airport
Farnborough Airport

The airport-owned and -operated FBO continually improves itself to better serve its customers. In terms of individual category scores for all FBOs (Americas, EMEAA), it ranked third overall this year in pilot amenities (4.75), second in passenger amenities (4.78), and the highest for facilities (4.89). For the EMEAA regions, it ranked highest for facilities (4.89) while also leading in pilot and passenger amenities. The facility’s overall score (4.69) bestowed by AIN’s readers was high enough to propel Farnborough to a Top 5 percent ranking worldwide.

Its three-story, 52,000-sq-ft terminal features VIP customer lounges that can accommodate up to 60 people for high-volume flights, conference rooms, crew lounge and snooze rooms, work area, passenger and crew shower facilities, and laundry service. A fully equipped crew gymnasium is attached to one of the hangars. Drive-through customs and immigration clearance and rampside vehicle access are available along with an on-airport hotel.

The complex is home to 64 jets and has 240,000 sq ft of hangar space capable of sheltering aircraft up to a BBJ or A220, yet that is not enough. Last year the airport broke ground on Domus III, a hangar development that, when completed in early 2024, will increase its capacity by 70 percent, adding a 175,000-sq-ft, four-bay structure. The airport also has more than 21 acres of ramp.

According to FBO director Dominic Osborne, the airport rode a year-long surge of strong activity once Covid restrictions were lifted. “After the summer season in 2022, the market slowed down a little, and we are now seeing a more normalized profile akin to pre-pandemic levels,” he told AIN.

The site of the biennial Farnborough Airshow, the airport hosted the event last year for the first time since 2019 due to the global Covid pandemic. Having first supplied sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in 2021, it continued to drive demand by offering it at the same price as conventional jet-A in the lead up to the airshow. SAF will play a key role in the airport’s Net Zero Roadmap launched last year.

4.61 Universal Aviation, London Stansted Airport (EGSS), Stansted, UK

While Universal Aviation, the ground handling arm of Texas-based Universal Weather and Aviation, operates a dozen FBOs and general aviation terminals around the world, its facility at London Stansted Airport continually earns its highest accolades, according to AIN readers. In operation since 1984, the location is home to Universal’s European operations center and its flight planning and trip support services. The two-story, 11,000-sq-ft facility offers a wide variety of amenities and services, including VIP arrival and departure lounges, conference rooms, crew lounge and crew business center, shower facilities, dedicated in-house security screening, customs and immigration areas, and catering preparation kitchens. 

Universal Aviation, London Stansted Airport
Universal Aviation, London Stansted Airport

The location, which has a staff of 45, excelled this year in the customer-facing categories of CSRs (4.79) and line service (4.72), in both cases tallying the highest score awarded in the categories outside of the Americas. “Passengers arriving at London--Stansted can be on the road within minutes of landing and are able to concentrate on their purpose for coming to the UK and not be distracted by unnecessary complications,” said Sean Raftery, Universal’s senior director of international business for Northern Europe and Africa. “That’s what we are there for.”

In addition, the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) Stage 2-registered facility placed highly in the pilot amenities category (4.58).

With 40,000 sq ft of private ramp, and access to hangars that can handle ACJ/BBJ-size aircraft, the facility has ground equipment to handle the largest passenger aircraft, something that was required during the influx of government and VIP aircraft many London-area FBOs experienced in September for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite the Covid pandemic largely being referred to in the past tense these days, Raftery noted it is still very much around. “The challenge for employers is that it is still knocking people out of the workforce at times, and is still very contagious,” he told AIN. “We have to live with it now of course but it needs to be managed and it is wise to keep some simple measures in place in the FBOs.”

4.52 ExecuJet Australia, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (YSSY), Sydney, Australia

Earning its spot among the top-rated international service providers in AIN’s FBO Survey for the sixth straight year is ExecuJet’s location at Australia’s Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport. With a staff of 25, it was the global chain’s first location to achieve Stage 3, the highest IS-BAH level. It scored its highest marks (4.70) in the customer-facing categories of line service and customer service. 

ExecuJet Australia, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport
ExecuJet Australia, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

“It is not the facility but the service experience that many crew consider when choosing an FBO,” explained Matthew Guy, the company’s regional FBO manager for the Asia-Pacific region. “With an average of 17 years’ service each, our customer service agents are well known in the Australian business aviation industry, delighting passengers and crew with a relaxed and friendly welcome and personalized attention.”

The standalone, two-story terminal with floor-to-ceiling windows has 3,230 sq ft of space housing a passenger and crew lounge as well as a trio of conference rooms and a catering preparation kitchen. ExecuJet expects to complete a remodel of the customer areas this year. According to Guy, “the new space will deliver a higher level of comfort and privacy to passengers and crew by creating individual zones to both work and relax.”

In operation for 40 years and officially under the global ExecuJet brand since 2017, the FBO also includes onsite customs, immigration, and quarantine services; valet parking; vehicle ramp access; and crew concierge.

Along with an acre of ramp with direct terminal egress, the FBO has access to two hangars, one occupied by its co-located MRO facility, as well the largest hangar on the field, which it manages. The latter can accommodate a pair of ultra-long-range, large-cabin business jets.

4.48 Eccelsa Aviation, Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport (LIEO), Olbia, Italy

The highest-scoring FBO in Italy once again is Eccelsa Aviation, the lone FBO at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport on the Italian island of Sardinia. Owned by the same company that manages the airport, it has been operating in its current 48,400-sq-ft, two-story terminal since 2009. 

Eccelsa Aviation, Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, Italy
Eccelsa Aviation, Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, Italy

In addition to the normal slate of FBO amenities, such as passenger lounge, pilot lounge and snooze room, porte cochere, and 12-seat conference room, the facility also offers a VIP lounge with private entrance, lounge bar, and indoor summer patio. Gourmet catering is provided by sister company Cortesa Catering, which also offers an onsite kitchen and venue for private events and even private cooking lessons from executive chef, Tommaso Perna.

If that isn’t enough, there is also a coffee shop and a market selling the best produce from Sardinia and the Italian mainland as well as luxury comestibles such as caviar, champagne, rare wines, and liquors. Specialty shops offer eyewear and high-end clothing. Tenants include the San Marino Aircraft Registry, along with aircraft and helicopter charter operators.

A much-appreciated amenity in the sun-soaked Mediterranean is one of the largest aircraft arrivals canopies in Europe, capable of sheltering ACJ- or BBJ-size aircraft.

With the region very much a leisure destination, traffic peaks during the summer, and staffing levels accordingly reach more than 50, according to manager Francesco Cossu. “Olbia has a strange situation, no one is based here, and we have one of the most seasonal locations in Europe,” he told AIN. “We experience an incredible traffic in the peak season, with over 150 movements in a day, to as light as five or 10 movements a day in the winter time. We go from sheer delirium to a sleeping mode.”

To accommodate that surge of summer traffic, Eccelsa Aviation has expanded its nearly 25-acre ramp with a more than 200,000-sq-ft extension that is scheduled to open by the end of May. “This will allow Eccelsa to handle the forecasted traffic increase without turning anybody down and meeting all our customer’s requests in terms of arrivals and departures,” said Cossu.

4.48 Signature Flight Support, Munich International Airport (EDDM), Munich, Germany

Signature Flight Support is likely the most-recognized name in the business aviation service industry with more than 200 locations. Its facility in the general aviation terminal at Munich International Airport again earned the highest score for any of its locations outside of the Americas. 

Signature Flight Support, Munich International Airport, Germany
Signature Flight Support, Munich International Airport, Germany

The FBO, which occupies 5,400 sq ft of space on two levels in the general aviation terminal (GAT), provides a refreshment bar with soft drinks, coffee, local snacks, and ice cream. “Our best-in-world beer is also offered complimentary for arriving travelers,” said general manager Oliver Trono. The facility also includes a crew lounge with shower facilities and snooze room; onsite customs and immigration clearance; two conference rooms; business center; and for recreation, a foosball table and a pool table. The latter two are often the site of heated competition between international crews. While the FBO is part of the shared GAT, “We make every effort to ensure our facilities are always kept in top condition as well as our fleet of vehicles,” Trono explained, adding its flagship is a 7-series BMW limousine for passenger and crew ground transfers.

The facility is open during the normal airport hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year in coordination with the airport’s overnight curfew. In cases of approved late operations, after hours service is available. It has a staff of nine long-tenured employees, and it was its CSRs that earned the FBO its highest score this year (4.78).

“All our team members have been working together for many years, and this has helped us develop relationships with our visiting crews,” explained Trono. “Seeing that we can make our crew’s lives easier is our definition of success, and to be listed again [in the survey] is an achievement that we are very proud of.” As well, the facility, which has achieved Stage 2 registration under IS-BAH, ranked highly among international FBOs in the line service category (4.57).

All hangar space at EDDM is managed by the airport authority and is assigned on a “first come, first served” basis. The airport can shelter ultra-long-range business jets.

4.47 Jet Aviation, Schiphol Airport (EHAM), Amsterdam, Netherlands

In operation for more than three decades as the KLM Jet Center and from 2018 when it was acquired by Jet Aviation along with its sister location in Rotterdam, the FBO at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has long been an outstanding performer among AIN readers. 

Jet Aviation, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Jet Aviation, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Located just off the airport’s Runway 22-04, which is primarily used for general and business aviation, Jet Aviation’s nearly 6,500-sq-ft FBO is split between two levels at the airport’s general aviation terminal. “We have focused on ensuring an effortless experience throughout the facility,” said Ricardo Paiva, the company’s senior director of site operations and general manager. He noted that over the past year, a third customer lounge was added along with additional meeting areas.

The location features two crew lounges with a pool table, beverage bar featuring everything from soft drinks to wine and beer, computer workstations, international television channels, indoor and outdoor parking, dishwashing and laundry service, and on-site immigration and customs clearance.

“In order to ensure we provide our customers with the best possible service, we regularly update our equipment and facility,” Paiva told AIN. That mindset contributed to the location’s facility score (4.56), which placed it squarely among the top international FBOs in the category. A furniture refurbishment is planned for the entire customer area.

With a staff of 30, it is open daily from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., and like all of Jet Aviation’s locations worldwide, the Schiphol FBO has achieved IS-BAH Stage 2 registration. Offering dedicated fueling (sustainable aviation fuel available since 2021) and deicing, it tallied its highest score this year in the line service category (4.58).

While the location does not possess hangar space of its own, it can, depending on availability, accommodate aircraft up to ACJ/BBJ size.

4.45 MJets FBO, Don Mueang International Airport (VTBD), Bangkok, Thailand

MJets FBO serves Thailand’s capital city’s private aviation traffic at Don Mueang International Airport, and its luxurious facility has impressed AIN’s readers since its debut in 2016, resulting in it being the highest-rated FBO in Asia in our survey for the seventh consecutive year. 

MJets FBO, Don Mueang International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
MJets FBO, Don Mueang International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand

Open 24/7, the 26,000-sq-ft, two-story terminal features onsite customs, immigration, and quarantine clearance with visa availability on arrival; refreshments; a crew suite with three sofa beds and shower facilities; a 3,400-sq-ft executive lounge that can accommodate up to 75 guests at a time; private passenger lounge; four conference/training rooms (the largest of which can fit 60 people); and concierge—all of which added to the FBO receiving its highest scores (4.61) in the passenger amenities and facilities categories. Those amenities are certainly there for those who want them, but the facility is well known for its quick-turn capabilities.

The location, which was the first in Southeast Asia to earn accreditation under IBAC’s voluntary IS-BAH program, has now reached Stage 3. A full-service FBO with a staff of 200, the location offers aircraft charter and management services, operates its own Part 145 repair station with AOG service, and has more than 86,000 sq ft of hangar space that can accommodate aircraft up to a Boeing BBJ or Airbus ACJ.

Through the FBO customers can arrange private security services for their stay or even police escort ahead of arrival. MJets also offers full medevac services through its partnership with a leading local hospital.

According to Phillip Leysen, the company’s chief commercial officer, MJets experienced a great year in 2022 as the Covid pandemic wound down. “A significant increase in travel demand overall has helped all of our businesses, including our own internal charter operation, aircraft sales, and advisory services. With the opening of the Chinese border, we expect demand to rise much more.”

4.42 Harrods Aviation, London Stansted Airport (EGSS), UK

It’s been a busy year for Harrods Aviation, the third London-area service provider to reach the highest rungs of the AIN FBO Survey this year. An affiliate of the iconic Harrods department store in London, the company operates FBOs at London Luton and London Stansted, and it is the latter location that ranked among the highest FBOs outside of the Americas this year, earning its highest score (4.48) in the facilities and CSRs categories. Harrods recently introduced a customer experience team tasked with ensuring all customers receive the very best service. 

Harrods Aviation, London Stansted Airport, UK
Harrods Aviation, London Stansted Airport, UK

At Stansted, the company occupies the original permanent airport terminal building built in the late 1960s. Open 24/7, it offers three separate customer lounges: a head-of-state lounge with private bathroom facilities and direct ramp access, a VVIP lounge with a full bar and hot and cold beverages, and a business lounge. In addition, it features on-site security, customs, and immigration clearance, conference room, pilot lounge with snooze rooms and IT-supported work area, gymnasium, driver rest area, private vehicle ramp access, and crew transfer service.

Harrods, however, delivered a master stroke when it purchased rival FBO Fayair and its facilities in January, thereby reducing the number of competitors on the field and giving the company an additional 38,750-sq-ft hangar/terminal along with ramp space adjacent to its existing FBO. “This acquisition has immediately been put to good use,” said Will Holroyd, Harrods Aviation’s commercial director. “Having doubled the available hangar parking has made it possible to respond positively to all hangar requests this year so far.”

The IS-BAH Stage 2-registered facility can shelter aircraft up to a Boeing 757, and larger aircraft are a common sight on its ramp. “It is a rare day at Stansted when we aren’t handling the likes of a Boeing 747 or an Airbus A340 or similar,” Holroyd told AIN. “It is perhaps strange for other FBO operators to hear when we mention a BBJ as a ‘smaller aircraft.’” 

4.42 Jet Aviation, Geneva International Airport (LSGG), Geneva, Switzerland

Joining its sister location in Amsterdam among the standouts in AIN’s FBO Survey this year is Jet Aviation’s facility at Geneva International Airport, which has served private aviation since 1969. The modern FBO, which earned its highest score in the facilities category (4.51), occupies 6,500 sq ft on two levels in the general aviation terminal and has its own dedicated entrance. It features three private passenger lounges, a pair of conference rooms, a crew lounge with flight planning area, snooze room, shower facilities, onsite customs and immigration, and valet parking. 

Jet Aviation, Geneva International Airport, Switzerland
Jet Aviation, Geneva International Airport, Switzerland

Open during the airport’s business aircraft hours of 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., the FBO has 40 employees. “Our team in Geneva is committed to providing a personalized journey through our FBO for each and every one of our customers,” said Edgar Guerreiro, Jet Aviation’s senior director for MRO and FBO and general manager of the facility. “With over 10 nationalities represented on site, and many more languages spoken, we can provide a warm welcome that makes our customers feel like they have come home.”

Like the 29 other locations in the company’s worldwide FBO network, the Geneva location has achieved IS-BAH Stage 2 registration and provides fueling, deicing, and ground handling for aircraft up to a Boeing 747.

As LSGG is host to the annual European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), the FBO last year received a temporary supply of sustainable aviation fuel available for private aircraft returning from the show, and it now participates in the book-and-claim program for SAF credits.

With a Jet Aviation Part 145 repair facility co-located in Geneva, the company has some 54,000 sq ft of hangar space available, which can shelter aircraft up to an ACJ, along with 21,500 sq ft of ramp.    z

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AIN 2023 FBO Survey: EMEAA (306K)

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