When passengers charter a private flight, they expect nothing but the best. Private travel has come to be associated with luxury, privacy, and comfort, but it’s also secure. Private aircraft are by far the best means of travel to avoid things like the current novel Coronavirus. VREF has been receiving several calls and emails from people asking if chartering an aircraft is safe. The answer is yes, and FBO’s are one of the main reasons why.

Private aircraft typically use an FBO. But what is an FBO, and why do you need one?

Keep reading to learn more about the history and benefits of using an FBO as a private jet owner, operator, or potential charter client.

What is an FBO?

In the world of private aviation, FBO stands for Fixed Base Operator. This term is a fancy way of referring to private aviation services at an airport. These often include a private terminal or VIP passenger lounge at the general aviation side of the airport.

When you arrive at the airport for a private flight, you and your passengers are directed to an FBO. FBOs are used for business and general aviation operations. FBOs are an important part of the logistics of private charter flights.

Here are a few of the luxury travel and business services they offer:

  • Handling arrivals/departures
  • Aircraft storage
  • Refueling services
  • Flight planning
  • Tie-downs
  • Break rooms for pilots
  • Passenger lounges
  • Food and refreshments
  • Restrooms (clean ones)
  • Wi-fi
  • Security from the general public

Choosing an FBO for Your Needs

Not all FBOs are equal. They come in different sizes and options, depending on your needs.

At large airports that are popular for private business travel, there are usually multiple FBO options that stand alone from the main commercial terminals and are specifically designed for private aircraft.

This means there are a variety of options and services depending on the needs of your aircraft, flight crew, and passengers. FBOs can have their own niches. For example, some might offer better fuel pricing, while others focus on luxury accommodations for guests.

Some FBOs specializes in serving VIP passengers, including heads of state, royalty, and executives. Even smaller airports that see a lot of business travel can have a multitude of FBO options, so don’t rule out an airport based on its size alone.

Where Did the Term FBO Originate?

The term fixed based operator dates back to the 1920s when civil aviation was largely unregulated. Airplanes were becoming increasingly common, and pilots were eager to offer passenger flights.

These pilots were known as “barnstormers” because they preferred to land in farmer’s fields rather than the airport. They paid a local fee and moved on. They were transient and didn’t operate their business out of a fixed area.

In 1926, the US Air Commerce Act went into effect. This legislation brought new regulations regarding pilot licensing, aircraft maintenance, and training requirements.

Pilots and those in the industry wanted to distinguish themselves from rogue pilots who didn’t adhere to the new regulations. To do this, they started establishing registered businesses at fixed locations. These were called fixed base operations.

Traditionally, the term was used to describe operators based at an airport. This is still the case for many small airports. When a pilot needed to land at an airport that wasn’t their home base, they would call the fixed base operator to arrange for their flight to land.

Private aviation has become more popular, and the term has changed, meaning a little. Now, FBO is used to describe third-party companies that manage facilities and provide aviation services. These include hangars, lounges, refueling, security, concierge, and even car parking.

What to Expect at an FBO

After you book a private flight, you are provided an itinerary that includes the address of the FBO the flight will depart from. FBOs often have their own parking and access roads so you can avoid congested airport traffic.

While smaller airports usually only have a couple of FBO options, if you are departing from a larger airport, you’ll have more options for which you prefer to use. Those who fly frequently often have a preferred FBO that they will request upon booking their flight.

When you arrive at the FBO, you’ll be greeted by the reception staff is there is a front desk. Not all FBOs will have one. You’ll also meet the passengers.

While most passengers choose to board the plane immediately, they can enjoy a variety of luxury services while they wait. Chances are, you will take off within a few minutes of arriving. They might even be able to pull their car up next to the plane.

Practically every major airport in the world offers FBO services. Many of them offer expedited customs or have customers and immigration on site. FBOs may have security at the terminal, but you won’t have to go through the typical screening process.

Most of the time, passengers only need to show ID to the pilots. The flight crew will load the luggage onto the plane.

The best part of most FBO’s is that you will avoid TSA, and you don’t have to remove your shoes, your coat or stand in line with dozens of potentially sick people. Limiting exposure to the general public is one of the best ways to stay healthy and avoid the coronavirus.

Do You Need Your Aircraft Appraised?

Hopefully, we answered your question, “What is an FBO?” and explained some of the biggest benefits of using one.

The aviation world offers the best to its pilots, passengers, and crews. You just have to know where to look. Using an FBO can ensure your passengers enjoy the luxury experience they imaged when they booked a private jet.

As a private pilot, it’s important to be aware of the current market value of your aircraft. We specialize in aircraft valuations. Click here to get started.