An airport FBO is the private jet terminal that makes it so rewarding to fly private. Commercial flights leave from commercial terminals. Chartered jets depart from private facilities known as an airport FBO, or fixed-base operator. They save you time and provide a completely different experience to commercial airport terminals.
What Is An Airport FBO?
Fixed-base operator, or FBO, provide services for private jets at airports. Think about any international airport you’ve used recently. There are different terminals, different facilities for business and first class passengers, different areas dependent on the airline, and an airport FBO. Except it’s highly unlikely you will have encountered the FBO unless you were flying on a private jet.
Think of an airport FBO as a private terminal at an airport. In some airports it’s a large custom-built facility, a genuine terminal to process a large number of private flights. At others it may be more like a VIP lounge that’s separated from the airports’ commercial flight operations. Popular private jet destinations like Teterboro Airport (KTEB) and Westchester County Airport (KHPN) have multiple FBOs. Those who fly regularly on private jets develop a preference for a particular FBO brand, in the same way commercial flyers prefer a certain brand of airport lounge.
What Does an Airport FBO Do?
For flyers, an airport FBO is the private jet terminal that saves you time. It makes private flights quick, efficient, and far simpler than commercial airline. In general, the expedited style of an FBO means flyers hardly see anything of it. Thanks to the airport FBO, flyers only need to show up 15 minutes before a flight. You can be in and out on and the plane within a few minutes. What you do see is a lounge with with all the amenities a first-class airport lounge would have, plus a streamlined security process.
But for pilots and operators there is much more to the airport FBO. The fixed-base operator provides so many essential services. Number one on that list is refueling. Then there’s secure hangar space and tie down, ground power units, oxygen, APU carts, and various other services that you don’t need to know about unless you’re flying the plane. They can support with flight planning and aircraft maintenance, although perhaps the most important service they provide is a restroom and solid telecomms for pilot and crew.
For air charter operators, the airport FBO is a one-stop shop where flyers can be properly looked after, while aircraft and crew get everything they need. In-flight catering usually comes through the FBO as well, along with ancillary services that might be required. That could be anything from champagne on ice to specific services for those flying with pets.
Why Is an Airport FBO Important?
The luxury of a private air charter is saving time. It’s not taking selfies in a gold-plated jet once used by a celebrity, nor any of the other pretension that’s typically, and wrongly, associated with flying private. With a private air charter you save time. And an airport FBO ensures you maximize the time saved.
Saving Time on Every Flight
If you think that flying private is just for high-rollers and celebrities, then read how to charter a plane and get the best deals. The great advantages are a direct flight route and utilizing airports that are closest to your destinations. With a private charter you have access to ten times more airports than a commercial flight. That means getting closer to a city, like touching down at Dallas Love Field rather than DFW International. But also using regional airports that cut ground transport time from hours to minutes.
Saving Time at an Airport FBO
Those time savings would be somewhat negated if you had to battle through a commercial terminal. Check in queues; security queues; customs and immigration queues; walking half a mile to the actual gate, while being forced through various duty free stores on route. The experience at an airport FBO is completely different. It’s a private terminal for private jets, removed of all the typical hassle and headaches.
There are less passengers to process, which naturally makes everything quicker. It’s your private air charter, so it’s likely that the pilot will meet you upon arrival. Security is streamlined so you hardly know it’s happening. Even large private terminals are just a fraction of the size of commercial terminals, so it’s rarely more than a few steps from entrance to aircraft. Commercial airlines request you arrive two hours before departure, because it can take two hours to process a passenger from terminal entrance to take off. At an airport FBO that entire process takes less than ten minutes.
Arrive Moments Before Departure
That’s ten minutes at most FBOs anyway. It’s less than that at others. Some FBOs allow you to drive up to the plane in your own vehicle; a valet parks it away as you jump on board. Provo Air Center at Providenciales International Airport has declared itself the first ever drive-thru airport terminal. Everything is done in a golf cart, from your vehicle to the plane. You’ll find it on the Turks & Caicos Islands - there’s even a pet park and private cave.
Remember, time saved on take off is complemented by time saved upon arrival. Touch down and be on your way within five minutes, because you can breeze through an airport FBO rather than get stuck in a commercial terminal and its queues.
A Private and Personal Experience
Private jets and celebrities have a bad reputation, the articles suggesting that the relationship is all about ostentatious tastes and advertising wealth. Maybe that’s true for some A-listers. But for most celebrities the reality is similar to everyone else. An air charter saves time. An airport FBO provides privacy that some people require. If you’re a celebrity that gets recognized on the street, imagine taking your family through a busy commercial terminal. If you’re a relatively known sports pro going on vacation with the little ones, it’s a drag to be continually approached by strangers when waiting for luggage.
FBOs are a little like first-class lounges, just made more private because you don’t need to step inside a commercial terminal first. There’s a private parking and drop-off area, a private entrance, and access is restricted to private jet passengers. Like a first-class lounge there’s an elevated level of service. It’s here that you also pick up or enjoy some of the customized aspects of your flight, perhaps a 24-pack of cold beers for a charter to the Super Bowl, an order of KFC, or special amenities you require for getting business done while on the move.
In a commercial terminal you travel between countless people. At an airport FBO you’re met by the pilot and don’t have to deal with anyone else. It’s streamlined and personal. So the pilot asks if you want to take off straight away, or perhaps wait a little while to grab a coffee or beer. It’s your plane, and an FBO starts feeling like an extension of your own home.
FBO Passenger Amenities
Most FBOs have all the facilities you would expect from a first-class airport lounge. Think toilets, showers, refreshments, Wi-Fi access and a very comfortable place to sit. Like first-class lounges, larger FBOs provide more specific luxury, including hotel rooms, concierge services, tailored food and drink menus, or services for passengers flying with pets, babies or young children.
At this end of travel, air charters can cater for just about whatever the passenger wants. So while a FBO might not offer hot restaurant food, it can ensure there’s a hot meal available if that is requested. If you want champagne or a certain wine it can be there. But let’s not descend too much into the realm of luxury. The luxury of private jets is saving time, not getting a KFC delivered to the plane. So for almost all passengers, the FBO is simply a comfortable space you travel through, very briefly, before boarding a plane.
Security at a FBO
Private jets and commercial flights have many of the same regulations. These are regulated by the FAA, like all things aviation in the US, specially FAA Part 135 for air charters. So you do need to clear security before taking off. At the FBO there aren’t any queues of course. It’s a private facility and security is designed to be very fast and unobtrusive. Most passengers don’t even notice it’s taken place.
Airport FBO Opening Times & Locations
Some FBOs are open 24 hours. Others operate specific hours but will open upon request. Opening times aren’t something you need to think about when booking an air charter. The operator will have already contacted the FBO and booked your arrival. The FBO location isn’t really important either, as onward travel is easily booked from outside the terminal. Pilots can use www.airnav.com to view the location of FBOs. The website provides airport diagrams, so pilots can check exactly where they need to go before taking off.
History of the Term FBO
Fixed-base operator doesn’t really reflect the role of an airport FBO. The term dates back to the unregulated days of 1920s aviation. It was a time when a surplus of ex-military aircraft meant people were flying around the country, touching down in farmers’ fields or on deserted roads. Pilots hopped around like nomads, working and traveling as they went, providing air charter services to anyone who needed them.
Then the US Air Commerce Act came into force in 1926. Pilots needed licenses, aircraft required maintenance, training standards were introduced. Rather than a transient existence, pilots took their business to a fixed base of operations. Over time that became known simply as a FBO, a one-stop airport shop for almost everything related to private air charter.
What’s Next for FBOs
As the private air charter industry continues to increase, there’s going to be increased demand for larger airport FBOs. Hopefully that provides space for both independent companies and well-known brands. Over the last decade there’s been a shift towards larger brands consolidating their market position. They have taken over independent FBOs and developed a reputation, with some like Signature Flight Support operating over a hundred private terminals.
Competition is very high and that bodes well for the future. There are five different FBOs at Teterboro Airport, even more at Paris Le Bourget. Quality has to remain high, otherwise pilots and passengers use elsewhere. We predict that FBO brands will look to consolidate their niche within the market, so some will seek to attract the most expensive jets and high net wealth flyers, while others will compete on economical fuel, maybe hangar or tie-down facilities.
Ultimately, we expect service to improve and prices to come down as the air charter industry grows.
Charter a Plane With Airvel
We could give you a list of our favorite FBOs but there’s not really any point. You don’t choose a certain air charter route because you want to experience the FBO. We just guarantee that we use professional FBOs and respond to all your customization requests.
The beauty of a chartering a plane is flying anywhere, anytime. That’s why we developed Airvel. It’s the world’s leading marketplace for private air charters, responsively matching supply and demand. Search to and from any US airport, and international, then compare flights and prices. With Airvel you can enjoy cheap private jet flights, wherever and whenever you want to fly.