Fair & Transparent Processes Ensure a "Win-Win" for Airports, Fixed Base Operators & Travelers

Patrick Sniffen

Our fast-paced economy makes us increasingly interconnected, and the number of business travelers relying on business aircraft continues to grow. This has led to gains for the both general and private aviation industries, which are increasing their role as major contributors to our economy. It has also heightened the focus for airports to choose the best flight support providers. 

According to a report from PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), general aviation had an impact of $219 billion on the U.S. economy in 2013, up from $150 billion in 2005. Private aviation supports more than 1 million jobs in the United States alone. 

As travelers continue to embrace the convenience and efficiency of traveling on private aircraft, airports, aircraft operators and pilots are increasingly dependent on safe, high-service, state-of-the-art fixed base operators (FBOs) to provide services to their flourishing client base.   

As the need for these services and the number of FBOs continue to grow, airports must set and maintain high standards. Further, they need fair and transparent processes when choosing which FBOs to host on their site as they constantly work to balance passengers' burgeoning appetites with safety and choice.

Patrick Sniffen    
Patrick Sniffen is vice president of Marketing for Signature Flight Support, the world's largest network of fixed base operators. Signature services private and business aircraft operators at more than 200 locations throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South and Central America, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.    

Set High Standards

When selecting an FBO, airports must work with partners that best suit the needs of their passengers, and also reflect the values of the airport and community they serve. Key considerations when reviewing an FBO's suitability should include:
• The FBO's standards: World-class quality and safety standards reflect on the airport's image and ability to become a top destination. Airports should seek an FBO that understands its goals and bolsters its existing reputation.
• The company's employee programs: Top FBOs hire locally and provide opportunities for their employees to grow personally and professionally, boosting the local economy and providing living-wage jobs for those who live in the community the FBO serves.
• The FBO's commitment to the community: An FBO should have a plan to support local nonprofits and other organizations that benefit the residents who live and work in the communities it serves.
• The FBO's ability to serve its passengers: Clients prefer a provider that has access to a global network so they can easily reach multiple destinations in one day, thus maximizing their time and accomplishments-factors that are critical in today's fast-paced economic climate.
• The FBO's financial stability: In order to sustain a long-term business, the company must be financially sound in order to provide the ongoing services required by airports, passengers, vendors and pilots.

Develop the Right Processes

When setting standards for selecting an FBO, it's important to set clear, fair and transparent processes. This ensures that expectations are universally understood by various FBOs applying to operate at an airport.

Creating a fair and balanced vetting process will help:
• ensure that only qualified candidates apply;
• prevent lawsuits, loss of productive time, distractions and negative publicity that can result if an FBO feels selections weren't made legally or appropriately;
• assure business and general aviation operators that they are utilizing the best-in-class and safest private aviation support services providers;
• promote more effective and efficient communication between airports, FBOs, government agencies and other industry players; and 
• create relationships that are based on trust and strong fundamentals.

From FBOs to airport management to pilots, we all aim to provide a safe, productive environment that will enhance the experience we offer the flying public.

That's why we need to ensure that high standards in serving the needs of travelers, the airport, pilots and vendors are always at the forefront of every decision that is made. That includes providing a fair opportunity for all FBOs to compete and serve, and a transparent process on how bidders are chosen. 

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