Fixed-base operators (FBO) are the gold standard in airline travel. These facilities allow travelers to charter private jets and aircraft, flying in maximum privacy and comfort. Private jet FBOs provide several services to ensure passengers and pilots have the most seamless and stress-free flying experience possible.
Find out more about what FBOs are and how they operate. You may also want to know more about the benefits of FBOs and why you might be interested in using one for your next flight.
What Is a Fixed-Base Operator?
An FBO is an organization that has the right to operate at an airport and provide various aeronautical services. Some of these services regularly include flight instruction, aircraft rental, aircraft maintenance, fueling, tie-down, and parking services. Essentially, FBOs act as private jet terminals. Not every airport offers these, but there are many nationwide.
You’ll usually find FBOs on the grounds of a public-use airport, providing several types of support services to general aviation operators. Most FBOs offer weather and flight planning assistance and crew or passenger lounges. FBOs located in major international airports can even have showers and private sleeping rooms. Some FBOs have office and hangar space, maintenance services, aircraft owner management, and charter services.
Owners of FBOs range widely, with some people owning them independently and others owning them as a chain. As a result of this mix, many options are available to people interested in using an FBO, such as a private flier looking for a luxury experience. In a 2015 FBO survey from AIN Publications, the media company found approximately 3,000 FBOs operating in the U.S. In a follow-up study, they also identified around 4,500 of them worldwide.
Why Is It Called an FBO?
The term FBO originated in the early unregulated days of aviation. Before the Air Commerce Act of 1926, civil aviation was mostly unregulated, with pilots using military surplus aircraft for various purposes. Many of these pilots would fly from location to location and land on a farmer’s property. These early pilots would open temporary bases on these properties, where they could offer flight lessons and rides to those interested in getting into the air.
After the passage of the Air Commerce Act, regulations around flying became more strict. These new rules implemented training standards and required pilots to have a license. Additionally, there were new specifications for maintenance. The pilots and mechanics who would set up temporary camps had to adjust to these new conditions, with the new laws making it harder to run a more transient flying business.
Many of these pilots and mechanics reacted to these new conditions by starting permanent flying businesses. These new businesses called themselves fixed-base operators. This term was a way for these new permanent businesses to separate themselves from the more temporary flying businesses of the past. Today, FBOs are crucial to supplying private aircraft and delivering high-quality services to their clientele.
Benefits of Airport FBOs to Passengers
If you’re a private jet traveler looking for a luxury flying service, there are many advantages to choosing airport FBOs for your flying needs. Passengers love the fast and personalized experience of FBOs. Additionally, FBOs come with top-tier amenities, customer service, and flight crews for the most comfortable and convenient flights possible.
Check out some of the top airport FBO benefits below.
1. More Private and Laid-Back Experience
As you wait to board your private jet, FBOs offer a more discreet experience. Since FBOs are so exclusive, you won’t have to worry about long lines or crowds of people as you enter the airport. For passengers who prefer a stress-free experience, FBOs are the best option. Some FBOs even allow passengers to drive straight up to their plane and board without having to wait in a facility.
2. Great Customer Service
When you fly with an FBO, you can expect to receive top-level customer service. This service will ensure you have every question answered, and the FBO staff can often help you charter future flights. Additionally, you can regularly meet your flight’s captain and co-captain before the flight. FBO crews can handle the various challenges that come with flying, all while meeting and exceeding your expectations.
3. Exceptional Amenities
There are many advantages to relying on an airport FBO for your flying needs and the exceptional amenities they offer are at the top of the list for reasons why passengers keep coming back to them. Standard conveniences include restrooms, coffee and soda, Wi-Fi, and lounges.
Additionally, larger FBOs can also provide travelers with conference rooms for business meetings and restaurants for hungry passengers. These FBOs often come with luxury concierge services, like hotel bookings and car rentals. Some FBOs also offer showers for those who need to freshen up before or after a flight. Additionally, they may have game rooms, providing passengers with entertainment while waiting to take off.
4. Fast Boarding and Check-In Process
When you fly via an FBO, you don’t have to go through bag searches and personal screenings like you would if you were flying via a commercial terminal. Instead, you usually only have to show your ID to a pilot or another staff member before boarding. Alongside skipping typical security procedures, it’s common for passengers to only wait a few minutes at an FBO before boarding and taking off. There’s no waiting for hours before your plane arrives.
5. Experienced Flight Crews
FBOs also hire knowledgeable, reliable crews who know how to make your flight as comfortable as possible. On the plane, they’ll be ready to provide you with several services and amenities, such as food and drink. Unlike busier commercial flights, where flight attendants have to worry about hundreds of passengers’ needs, private flight attendants can focus solely on providing you the best flight experience possible.
How FBOs Serve Charter Pilots
Besides the many advantages FBOs provide to passengers, they also play a crucial role for charter pilots. FBOs provide charter pilots with aircraft servicing, amenities, fuel, and parking. All of these services are essential to keeping pilots comfortable and ensuring their planes are safe to fly.
Here are some of the basic services FBOs provide to charter pilots:
- Fuel: A primary role of an FBO revolves around providing fuel to aircraft. They refuel a pilot’s plane and get them back in the air as fast as possible. Additionally, FBOs often come with the ability to provide several types of fuel, such as jet fuel for turbine engines and avgas for piston-powered engines.
- Aircraft servicing: When charter pilots land their plane at an FBO, they can expect a team of highly trained mechanics to conduct any maintenance or repairs for their aircraft. FBOs also offer interior and exterior cleaning services for planes.
- Parking: FBOs provide short-term and long-term parking for planes, making it easy to find a solution for their needs. Versatile parking solutions include quick parking for refueling, tying a plane down for a longer stop, and renting hangar space for storage.
- Amenities: Charter pilots regularly rely on FBOs for lodging and other services while they rest and prepare for another flight. Typical conveniences for pilots include flight planning rooms, restaurants, lounges, and car rental services. They sometimes offer sleeping areas and showers for longer stays.
Understanding FBO Classifications
FBOs fall under three different tiers, determined by their total revenue and the types of services they offer. Learn more about the three main categories of FBOs below:
- Tier One: Tier One FBOs are the largest FBO type. Qualifying organizations must have a revenue higher than $25 million a year. Typically, these FBOs offer full services for fuel, facility, and hangar space. They also come with maintenance and technical services for turbine aircraft, replacing parts as needed. Additionally, they’ll usually feature OEM-certified aircraft service centers and turbine aircraft charter and management services.
- Tier Two: Right in the middle, Tier Two FBOs have a total revenue ranging from $10 million to $25 million a year. Like Tier One FBOs, this class of FBOs offers full services for fuel, maintenance and parts for turbine aircraft, and facility and hangar space. They also usually offer aircraft charter and management services. Unlike most Tier One FBOs, Tier Two FBOs usually host specialized missions, like medevac and geophysical services.
- Tier Three: The smallest and most common types of FBOs fall into the Tier Three category. Like the other two, they offer fuel, facility, and hangar services. Unlike the others that offer maintenance and parts for turbine aircraft, Tier Three FBOs primarily offer piston and turboprop services. They also often provide piston and turboprop aircraft charters and flight schools, such as flight training and aircraft rentals.
Can You Choose an FBO?
Usually, the pilot and flight adviser will choose the FBO for a passenger’s flight. Often, their choice will depend on the types of contracts they have with various FBOs, with the final decision often resulting from their fuel contracts. However, most pilots will allow a passenger to request a different FBO. If they agree to a switch, it may come with a surcharge to account for higher costs.
When you want to choose an FBO for your flight, you’ll want to start by figuring out how much more it will cost you to change from the pilot’s preferred FBO. If the price range still falls within your budget, you can be confident in your decision to switch the FBO.
After looking at the financial terms, you may also want to evaluate the types of entertainment, amenities, and transportation options available at various FBOs. Those who plan to stay at the FBO for an extended period will likely want better amenities. Evaluating the FBO’s lounge, entertainment options, and dining offerings can ensure your stay at the FBO is comfortable.
For those who need to get moving right after they land, it’s a good idea to choose one that can facilitate quick transportation to various places. You can also select an airport that puts you in the best location and offers the fastest transportation services to get you to your needed destination. Many passengers will select an FBO based on available hotel options.
Tips for Using an FBO Before and After Your Flight
Passengers regularly have questions about the FBO experience, such as how they should get there and where they should park. As you look for an FBO and plan your flight, you can learn more about some of the essential tips to be aware of as you use an FBO. Check out some of the most frequently asked questions about flying with an FBO below:
- How do I get to the FBO and check in? FBOs are usually separate from commercial airline terminals. When you receive your private flight’s itinerary, you’ll find the FBO’s address and directions for how to get there. Once you arrive, the check-in process is quick, with a reception staff ready to help you get on your flight and answer any questions you might have.
- Where do passengers park? Typically, FBOs offer complimentary parking areas for passengers who want to leave their vehicle in a secure location. Some even provide valet parking for a more convenient boarding process.
- What’s the security process? Unlike more traditional flying options, you won’t have to wait in a long line or experience bag searches or personal screenings. Usually, you only have to show an ID to a pilot or representative, making the security process much faster.
- Who handles my luggage? When you arrive at the FBO, the front-desk agent will help you get your luggage into the plane. Since FBOs coordinate with flight crews, they’ll take care of your bags without you having to lift a finger.
- Are customs and immigration available? If you’re traveling internationally, you can find many FBOs offering on-site customs and immigration at their facility. Sometimes, you’ll need to go through the airport’s standard customs and immigration process, but it’ll be quicker than at a commercial terminal.
- How do passengers get to their next flight? Passengers who are switching planes can coordinate with the FBO to ensure they have transportation ready in advance to get them to their next flight. They’ll usually have shuttles or private vehicles to help you get to your next flight quickly and comfortably. If you’re transferring to a different flight, ensure you’ve communicated with the FBO so they can accommodate your travel needs.
When you’re looking for a luxurious flying experience, Latitude 33 Aviation is a go-to option. We operate out of many FBOs in international airports nationwide. Since our company manages one of the largest and most advanced private aircraft fleets in the nation, we can provide you with the right plane for your needs. You’ll also find VIP treatment tailored to your preferences at hand-picked FBOs and on your flight.
As you look to charter a flight, review our many private jet charter locations and destinations. Once you’re ready to charter the flight, request a quote to have one of our trained representatives get in touch with you promptly.