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Flight Crews: Establishing Good Relationships with FBOs

April 13, 2021

Most operators, brokers and other aviation organizations have a checklist for choosing FBOs that includes the predictable items: location on the airport, hangar and ramp space available, operating hours, line personnel training standards and more. However, these items are only part of the puzzle.

How do you establish a relationship with a new destination FBO? What steps can you take to maximize efficiencies, improve communication and ensure your passengers receive the best service?

Experts agree that communication is the key to a successful relationship between FBO and aircraft operator.

An introductory call can help set the stage for exceptional service. A brief call to introduce your operation and describe current or upcoming needs can help the FBO get to know your organization, passengers and expectations. This will enable them to prepare properly for your arrival.

“In the digital age, we don’t always create those relationships. It’s hard to show you care through an email,” said Jessi Rowland, general manager of Cutter Aviation – Albuquerque, who encourages calls from both new and long-time customers. “We want to be sure our guests have the same excellent service when they walk through the door, regardless of the type of aircraft or operation.”

Subsequent calls prior to each trip help the FBO arrange its ramp and ensure space is available, set up appropriate ground transportation and even provide special procedures for high-profile individuals or those with special security protocols. Give the FBO the assigned tail number so personnel can properly organize ground vehicles, catering and other services.

A phone call to an FBO is especially warranted for uncommon or complex scenarios, including very large aircraft or multiple aircraft with several passengers from one operator arriving at the same time.

“Don’t take for granted that an FBO can service or has parking space for a large aircraft, even if the runway is long enough,” said Kim Goodspeed of Starbucks Coffee Co., who explained a ramp must allow an adequate turning radius, and the ramp, taxiways and runways must be able to bear the weight of the aircraft. While these are details pilots would also verify, identifying a challenge long before the flight occurs can give you more time to make alternative plans, if needed.

Have a pop-up trip or a last-minute need? Give the FBO as much notice as possible so personnel can try and make the necessary arrangements. Even if a trip is not final, the FBO can begin identifying options and make tentative reservations. In today’s environment, rental cars and ground transportation can be especially difficult to reserve with little notice, so even short notice of an upcoming flight is better than none.

Post-trip communication is equally important.

“Provide both positive and constructive critiques,” said Holly Whitaker, president of Exclusive Air, Inc. “People often go by ‘no news is good news,’ but it’s better to let people know if you’re receiving great service.”

An FBO can only provide excellent service if the service provider has advanced notice of your passengers’ expectations and needs. Take the time to introduce your organization to a new FBO and then stay in communication with that FBO to ensure your partnership best serves your passengers.

“It all comes down to people connecting,” said Goodspeed.

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