COVID-19 has dealt the Fixed Based Operator (FBO) industry a blow to its solar plexus & many in our industry, specially the independent FBO and smaller networks, feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Our industry has suffered downturns before, while nothing like that which COVID-19 has caused, history shown that the sector always comes out fighting!
I think the future of business aviation and therefore, the FBO sector too, is brighter than one might think.
Consider what is happening in the airline sector.
- Less airports being served = reduced connectivity.
- Reduced frequency.
- Reduced capacity.
- Fewer Business Class seats.
- Longer check-in queues& times.
- Much higher fares.
These factors and safety concerns have led to an increased use of private aircraft for both business and personal reasons, just ask any charter broker!
Already we are seeing considerable bizav traffic increases across Europe and the USA, in some regions Year Over Year (YOY) figures are actually up for July! (August figures will of course reflect introduction of local lockdowns & quarantine).
Reference: EuroControl andWingX.
Once new clients experience the convenience, safety, luxury & other benefits of business aircraft, many are likely to continue to fly private! So, the long-term effect of the pandemic may very well lead to an increased traffic for FBOs.
How is your FBO team planning to work with COVID-19 protocols and keep your operation profitable?
First, COVID-19 SOPs have been clearly identified; so they should be implemented in such a manner that all of your clients see that you have their safety as your number one priority at all times. Your staff must be relentless in their adherence to the SOPs.
The NATA Safety 1st Clean program is an excellent standard to follow in this regard. Check out www.NATA.aero for details.
Second, review how you utilize technology to efficiently streamline all aspects of your operation and access, in real time the information you need to run your business effectively. It is a good time to do it when business may be down.
Ask some questions:
- Do westill fill out paper handling requests?
- Do we still write paper fuel dockets?
- Do we suffer from fuel truck load errors?
- Do we miss billable items?
- Do we delay crews awaiting their invoice?
- Do our inter-team VHF comms lead to mistakes or delays?
I have been in the FBO business for a long time, worked on the ramp & in the office, in many countries. I have witnessed missed opportunities to capture revenue or reduce running costs at almost every station. There is always room to improve efficiency. Determining how to do it cost-effectively is not always easy!
I have used or am familiar with the management and payment processing systems commonly available to FBOs, especially Total FBO and FBO One. The latest and most advanced entrant is X-1FBO which you should take a look at. I have reviewed it. The screens are intuitive and easy to use. The reports look like what management and CSRs need. They also have some remarkably interesting ramp and payment innovations. You can set up a demo at www.x1fbo.com or contact Caroline Corrales, VP of Customer Success, at [email protected]
Third, this is a good time to review your insurance coverages and the associated cost. Do not just let it roll over each year. Insurance is a major consideration for your business, so leaving it up to your broker could be costing you dearly. Review early, get to know exactly what you are covered for and ensure it is suitable for all aspects of your operation. I would suggest starting with an online quote from AvgenDirect.com as they offer FBO specific cover. In the Bref box type,FBOT#1 to get additional insight into how your staff training& Safety Management System may help reduce your premium!
Finally, do you ensure that your contact details are up to date with the trip planning sector? Do they all know you even exist? You should make a point of introducing your FBO to every Operations Control Center (OCC) manager out there and ensure all your details are in their database. If you are not in their data base, they will not send you any traffic. If there are other FBOs on the airfield try and identify who is their preferred handler as they all have a ranking system. Sometimes an FBO can attract new business simply by engaging with an OCC, discussing their requirements & committing to delivering a top-class service for their clients.
FBO managers have always been under pressure to keep running costs down and increase profit. That’s the nature of our business. Never before has aviation had to face such a deep crisis, not since the Wright Brothers started powered flying at Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk back in 1903.
I hope that these suggestions will go some way towards strengthening your FBO through these unprecedented times.
Senior FBO Consultant,
Global FBO Consult