Joe McDermott, Senior Consultant, Global FBO Consult, Dublin, Ireland

Business Aviation: Meeting Unfolding Challenges

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By Joe McDermott


Constant Change

It’s always a changing world; it does not matter what the year is, nothing stays the same. But in business aviation things can change really rapidly!


Take the dreaded Corona Virus, COVID-19, for instance. Well it crept up on us very quickly. It’s a version of the annual flu but slightly more dangerous yet some sectors of the global media have gone into meltdown, not to mention some countries!


Aviation, like never-before, has the capability to move such diseases across the globe at a worrying pace. Airlines in the Far East are laying up almost entire fleets as travellers choose to stay at home or postpone vacation or business trips, even worse, entire cities are going on lock-down. Out of region airlines have reduced frequency or cut routes into affected cities.


Some business aviation media reports tell us that the reduction in routes being served or the lower frequency offered by airlines means that charter operators will pick up more flights. One report said it is “boom-time” for operators. In reality, it seems that many operators are being to undertake flights, but most are declining the extra custom as they are not prepared to self-isolate crew and deep-clean the aeroplane, or worse, risk crew catching the illness and being forced to stay quarantined away from base.


Possible exceptions to this may be transportation of NGOs, medics, medical supplies and equipment. But even these flights may be undertaken by military aircraft.


Misconceptions on Environment

Away from the COVID-19 scare we have the Greta Thunberg syndrome. Now, I am not saying that there is no environment crisis but blaming aviation or dairy farmers is not the solution our plastic filled world requires.


Coal fired power stations and steel mills belching thick smoke into the air, ever increasing amounts of non-recyclable plastic packaging filling our daily lives and the oceans are just a few real areas that need addressing. I have grandchildren and I want a sustainable future for them.


People wringing their hands in the air telling us we are all doomed unless we gone back to the stone-age are not helpful. Proclaiming that aviation is the environment’s enemy is ridiculous and ignores the huge technological advances the industry has made towards cleaner and quieter flying for everyone – not to mention the huge benefits aviation brings to every part of society.


Moving With Technology

On the ground, at the Fixed Based Operators (FBOs), the continuing challenge is one of maintaining competitiveness. As the OEMs and the operators have embraced the tremendous advances in technology, all too many FBOs have focused on the soft furnishings at their facility but neglected the software revolution that is passing them by.

The days of the paper and pen or Windows spread-sheet reliant FBO Ops Room are long gone, or certainly should be.


This was underlined to me only a few days ago when I spoke with Jim Wiley, Co-Founder of the next generation X-1FBO software system. Like myself, Jim has worked in the FBO sector and is no stranger to the pressure competition can place on an FBO CEO or Manager.


Jim Wiley said: “To compete successfully and maximize margins, FBOs must be efficient and provide exceptional customer service. Management must have real time access to actionable information for the best decision making. CSRs and Ops Room staff must have efficient systems; so instead of having their faces glued to a computer screen, they are free to serve and upsell customers.”


Line Service Technicians/Ramp Agents, he said, must know what to do and when to do it.  Just as importantly, they must be able to log that service into the billing system in real time, thus ensuring all services are invoiced.


“There is nothing worse than seeing an aircraft depart only to discover the client was not charged for a GPU or other service. Great teams win. X-1FBO is an advanced, cloud-based system that enables all of this. And it’s easy to learn and use.”


Business Aviation faces its challenges, but I believe that the sector will overcome them and continue making a major contribution to economic development and human welfare across the world.


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