What is an FBO?

interior of a jet

The world of private jet charter is one that is ruled by opulence and luxury. When you are paying that much, you expect the best kind of services to be afforded to you. This is exactly what happens as well. If a company is not able to give you the kind of amenities that are faithful to the price of entry, then the customers will simply migrate to another entity providing the same services.

One of the most important concepts that comes with chartering a jet is the nature of FBOs. Many people are completely clueless about how they work since they have not ever availed the services of an FBO. To understand an FBO, you have to keep in mind the existence of an airport as well, since they operate inside of one. Essentially, an FBO is an organization which operates inside the premises of an airport. They are granted permission by the airport and will provide services that are in the sphere of aviation. These services could be anything from hangaring (Hangaring is the act of parking an aircraft inside a hangar. For a fee, the aircraft is allowed to park inside the hangar), fueling. tie-down and parking, rentals, maintenance and flight instruction.

FBOs act as the provider of services for general aviation, at airports that have commercial traffic. Generally, FBOs are located inside the airport. However, in rare cases, FBOs will actually be housed outside the airport in an adjacent property as well. These are known as ‘through the fence operations’. In areas where the volume of traffic is low such as smaller communities or towns, the town/community will operate an FBO system with only the most essential services being included.

Since the traffic in larger airports is much more substantial, the work is outsourced to private organizations, which is the most common arrangement seen with FBOs.

Origins

World War I is perhaps the most important event that ever happened to the world of aviation. The aircraft, which was a very recent invention at that point was all of a sudden one of the most important weapons of war. Gone were the days of the cavalry and the infantry reigning supreme. In WW1, the doctrine of air supremacy first and ground attack later started to take shape. This followed huge government interest in the business of aviation. The high amount of investment that was made by the governments of the warring nations meant that innovation was at its peak. It helped not only to modernize the concept of the aircraft but also to push the limits of what was previously thought to be possible.

However, the private aircraft industry was still completely unregulated by the end of the great war. This meant that the lion’s share of the aviation sector in the US was made up of pilots who had access to military surplus aircraft. The low range of aircraft meant that the most they could do was fly from one city to another. Since the concept was still fairly novel at that time, pilots were able to make good money from performing what can only be described as a circus in the air. The nature of aviators at that time was quite migratory, moving from one place to another in their steel birds, much like how birds do in real life.

The Air Commerce Act was passed in 1926 and the days of aviation-based cowboyism were over. There were now lengthy procedures that had to be followed in order to fit the bill as a pilot. Your aircraft had to be maintained to a certain level and you had to have undergone training before you could start flying. This increased the cost of aviation like nothing else. All of a sudden, pilots needed places where they could park their aircraft legally and maintain them to a certain standard so that they were legally allowed to fly. This ushered in the concept of an FBO. Since airports were springing up all over the United States at that time, the best place to put FBOs seemed to be airports, where they still generally are located. For people who had the know how of how an aircraft is maintained, the job of an aircraft mechanic started to seem a lot more lucrative. These were the people who first started establishing FBOs.

Services

While the basic services that they provide have already been outlined, there are some other services that could also be mentioned. These include aerial photography, crop dusting and even aerial advertising. Some of the FBOs that frequently receive VIP traffic also provide services such as ‘courtesy cars’ for the crew of aircraft staying in the FBO. They can make short trips from the airport to their hotel for example. FBOs that are truly equipped with the top-of-the-line services resemble classy hotels. They have services such as restaurants, limos and even flight planning. For people who want to get an intro to the city they have just landed in, concierges are also available. FBOs mostly handle private traffic that comes into the airport on private jets. This means that FBOs make one of the most important nodes in the airport for traffic that is flying private. Many of these luxury amenities that have been mentioned above are only reserved for private traffic.

There is also the availability of a seating area where you can wait for your conveyance to arrive. You can expect other creature comforts such as lavatories and WiFi. Generally, the experience of waiting in an FBO is much more enjoyable than waiting in the lobby of an airport. FBOs even have the facility on parking spaces for the people who are chartering a jet.

Airports that handle a lot of traffic such as Teterboro Airport in NYC will have multiple FBOs. There can be as many as 6 operating in one airport. Even smaller commercial airports in the US will have at least 2 FBOs.

Back of private jet at sunset

 

Do You Choose Your FBO?

While private jet charter allows you a wide range of customizable options right down to the kind of champagne that you want for your journey as well as the option of choosing your own airport, FBOs are generally based on the choice of your operator. Most major private jet operators will already have contracts with particular FBOs and they will divert you to that particular FBO. This wasn’t always the case. When aircraft lacked the ability to go across the length of the US in one go, they often had to refuel in states in Nebraska or Kansas. Interestingly enough, pilots had optionality in terms of which refueling stop they wanted to land in. These refueling stops were essentially the FBOs of that time. So, the operators of these FBOs would often try to win the favor of the pilots by offering them free meals and other handsome benefits.

FBO Ownership

One of the most interesting questions about FBOs is related to the nature of ownership. For you, they are a faceless organization that provides you with all the services that you need. In some very rare cases, they will be operated by the airport itself, but since this is an entirely different business, most airports would simply choose to sign a contract with a private entity that will take care of the services. These FBOs are in turn owned by companies that have multiple FBOs running across different airports in different states. For example, Signature Flight Support is considered to be the largest operator in this space. They have 200 locations across the whole of the US as well as Europe. While in terms of sheer size, Signature is the biggest entity in the game, they are not known for the luxury that they provide. US Million Air, which is very cleverly named, has about 25 private terminals scattered across the entire country. In terms of the services they offer, they are far ahead of Signature. Companies like NetJets or Flexjet have their own lounges in FBOs where only their customers are allowed to rest. Typically, they have a separate entrance which allows them to be completely exclusive in terms of the services that they give to their customers. An FBO is one of the main reasons why you need to switch to private jet charter.

Advantages

One of the primary advantages of private jet charter and FBOs by extension is the sheer amount of customizability that you get in the experience. You are allowed the option of choosing your own aircraft as well as a host of other options. You can tailor everything to your own exclusive needs. Since there is a wide variety of aircraft that are available, more cost-effective private jets are also available. A jet like a Phenom 300 is a light jet that is not only extremely well-equipped but also has 9 seats. This means that the overall cost of the charter can be divided amongst the 9 passengers. In many cases, the per passenger cost will actually be lower than a first-class flight over the same duration.

The other major advantage is that you get to choose your own schedule. Gone are the days when you have to arrive 4 hours earlier to the airport and go through endless security checks. When you are chartering a private jet, you can waft in 10 minutes earlier and continue right into the aircraft without being frisked. After years of flying commercial, the difference can often feel too stark to be true.

Your pets are not put into inhumane cramped spaces like in commercial jets. In fact, you can just bring along your pets right into the cabin. Although it is pertinent to mention that you should let your operator know beforehand that you plan to take your pet as well, so that they can make all the necessary arrangements to accommodate your pet.

If you are the kind of person who needs a lot of privacy in order to truly feel comfortable, a commercial flight must have been the most agonizing experience for you. Being stuck in tight spaces with other passengers means that you have to adjust with them. Good luck trying to work with the sound of a couple arguing with the attendant with their child providing background noises expertly. On the other hand, a private jet charter will mean that you will be left alone with the people who you care for most. You can spend time with them, play games and get a little drunk, making memories that you will remember forever. Even though people assume that private jet charter is overpriced, it is one of the best investments you can make if you want to try to make your flight an experience that you will remember.

FBOs have expanded in the United States as the extent of private jet charter has increased. Cities like New York that receive a lot of business traffic have FBOs in spades. Today, there are over 3000 FBOs in the US alone, making them a permanent fixture of most major commercial airports. Equipped with all the latest amenities, some of the larger FBOs will have great restaurants inside them, as well as smiling faces wherever you go. After all, in the end, great experiences are what truly matter.

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