Flying private can be a luxurious and seamless experience thanks to the support of FBOs, or Fixed-Base Operators. FBOs are private terminals that cater exclusively to private aviation, offering a range of services to private aircraft owners and their passengers.
At its most basic level, an FBO provides a comfortable and secure location for private aircraft to park and refuel. But FBOs offer a lot more than just a place to land. Depending on the FBO, passengers can enjoy a range of amenities such as private lounges, conference rooms, concierge services, catering, and ground transportation arrangements.
Some of the most common services offered by FBOs include fueling, parking, hangar space, baggage handling, maintenance and ground support. Fueling services ensure that private aircraft can take off again as quickly as possible, without needing to search for fuel on their own. Ground support services for the planes include things like towing, lavatory servicing, and de-icing in cold weather.
Beyond these core services, FBOs may offer additional amenities such as on-site customs and immigration clearance, car rentals, and luxury transportation arrangements and crew lounges and showers.
Where Are FBOs
Smaller airports may have just one FBO, but larger airports can have several FBO’s, each one offering its own level of services and amenities.
So how do you find an FBO? If you are flying with a charter provider, jet card company or fractional operator or on an owned aircraft, the flight provider will direct you to the specific FBO that your flight will take off from. At large airports the FBOs can be spread out across the airport grounds, so make sure to get the specific FBO address before heading to the airport.
Large operators have preferred FBOs at each airport. There's usually a business relationship between the FBO and the operator for discounted fuel or parking etc. In many jet card or fractional agreements, you can request a specific FBO if you have a preference, although there may be an incremental charge to go to one that is not a preferred FBO.
FBO Advantages Compared to a Commercial Terminal
There are several advantages and benefits of using an FBO for private aviation travel, as compared to a commercial terminal. Here are some of the main advantages:
Personalized Service: FBOs offer personalized service and attention to detail that can be difficult to find in commercial terminals. FBO staff are trained to cater to the specific needs of private aviation clients, and can offer a range of amenities and services to enhance the travel experience.
Privacy: FBOs offer greater privacy and security than commercial terminals. Private aviation clients can avoid the crowds and noise of commercial terminals, and can often park their car closer to the FBO usually right outside the FBO – so there’s no shuttles or walkways that you may find in a commercial terminal.
Comfort and Amenities: FBOs usually offer a range of comfortable amenities, such as private lounges, conference rooms, catering, and other concierge services. These amenities can make travel more enjoyable and productive.
Time Saving: FBOs usually have much shorter wait times for security and other formalities, which can help reduce travel time. For a typical private flight you can arrive as little as 15 minutes before your departure time, park right outside the terminal, and pretty much walk through the terminal and get on your aircraft.
Which Are The Largest FBOs
There are several FBO groups in North America that are recognized as industry leaders due to their size, range of services, and quality of customer experience. Here are some of the largest FBOs along with a brief overview of their size and services:
Signature Flight Support: With over 200 locations across North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Signature Flight Support is the world's largest FBO network. Signature offers a range of services, including fueling, ground handling, hangarage, maintenance, repair and overhaul.
Atlantic Aviation: Atlantic Aviation operates over 100 FBOs across the United States, making it the second-largest FBO network in North America. Atlantic Aviation offers a range of services, including fueling, deicing, baggage service, and aircraft maintenance services.
Million Air: With over 30 locations across North America, Million Air is one of the largest FBO networks. In addition to fueling, ground handling, and hospitality, the company offers aircraft sales, management, and charter.
Jet Aviation: With some 30 FBO locations worldwide Jet Aviation is a leading provider of private aviation services. It has been owned by General Dynamics since 2008.
Large private aviation providers may also have their own private terminals. For instance, both NetJets and Flexjet, the two largest fractional jet operators, have several of their own private terminals, located at their most popular airports.
Jet card provider and aircraft management company Jet Linx has over 20 bases around the country. Each one is only available to Jet Linx clients and offers an executive lounge, a local flight concierge team and private meeting rooms.
In summary, FBOs are a critical component of the private aviation ecosystem, providing a range of services and amenities to aircraft owners and their passengers. From fueling and baggage handling to luxury transportation and on-site customs clearance, FBOs offer a seamless and comfortable experience for those who fly privately.