It’s about more than just price
As a passenger, choosing an FBO (fixed-based operator, or private terminal), is up to your travel advisor and pilot, right? Not necessarily. They may only be looking at cost and not your overall experience. We put out a poll to pilots asking what their main deciding factor was when picking an FBO. The majority responded that they make their choice based on ramp fee and fuel price. Since their main priority is finding the best deal to save you money, they will often call ahead asking about prices, but not about what else the FBO has to offer. While cost is certainly a vital factor, there is more than just the bottom line to consider.
Not all FBOs are equal, so look for the one with the best accommodations and amenities. An FBO will usually include aircraft services and basic facilities for passengers and flight crews, with larger operations also offering concierge services, catering, ground transportation and more. Flying privately is all about the extraordinary experience and every minute of the trip should reflect that. If there are unforeseen delays, it will help to have chosen the best possible spot. A good FBO will have everything you need to enjoy your stay, including a beautiful lounge, snacks, drinks and entertainment.
More important than the building and amenities is the level of service an FBO offers. Service could be the difference between an amazing trip and a really bad day. Since it is often the FBO staff who arrange accommodations, the last thing you need is to get to your destination with your transportation or hotel still unbooked. The best FBO personnel will go above and beyond to make your visit flawless. Reviews on Yelp and Google are good resources for finding out what level of service you can expect.
Even with great service, not all FBOs have the same types of resources available. Finding out ahead of time what services are on offer can help you decide where to go. For example, if you want your car detailed while you’re away, some FBOs, like ours in San Luis Obispo, will have it cleaned and by your plane as it arrives. Other services, like conference room rentals, can save you time on a business trip. If you have to fly in for a meeting, instead of traveling to a second location see if they have a room available at the FBO. Our location in Orange County also offers guests a wine tasting bar, masseuse and shuttle among its services.
Sometimes it’s not just which FBO to choose at an airport, but which airport is the best choice. When there are several near your desired destination, distance does not always have to be the deciding factor. Check out which airports have better FBOs and which have the best transportation options. Especially on short notice, airports with easy access to rental cars, rideshares and shuttle services are definitely preferable.
Much like choosing what type of aircraft to charter, FBO choice is dependent on your needs for that visit. You know best what each trip requires and so ultimately the decision is up to you. If price is your main or only consideration, by all means make sure your pilot or trip planner knows. If you have other priorities, let them know what else is important to you and what features you are looking for in an FBO.