Melbourne International Airport is to have its own private jet terminal, it has been announced, with work due to begin later this year. Businessman Paul Little, whose company bought the site at the city’s international airport, aims to make it the “best fixed base operator (FBO) in Australia”.
The plans certainly sound exciting and comprehensive, with the new facility to offer hangarage; dedicated customs and immigration; crew accommodation; helicopter transfers; and fuel services – amongst others. Melbourne airport also has the advantage of being open 24 hours, unlike the other private aviation airport for the city, Essendon Airport, which is currently the established choice for most private jet users in Melbourne.
Mr Little hopes to lure the growing Asian market for private jets. He also aims to persuade them – and others – to choose Melbourne over Sydney as their base. He is emphasising this as the project’s key objective, rather than gaining share from local rival Essendon Airport.
But successful FBOs are ones that follow market demand, not create it. You can create the most advanced FBO facility in the world, but if it’s not where people need to travel, then it won’t succeed.
There’s no doubt that Melbourne is an important business and leisure hub with strong private jet demand – these plans are great news for the city. But I don’t think better FBO facilities alone will attract private jet users to choose to travel to Melbourne over Sydney. While great service and facilities are hugely important, private aviation is ultimately about convenience – delivering people where they need to be, in the most fast and efficient manner possible.
Birmingham Airport in the UK was the site of an unfortunate FBO failure last year. A huge amount of investment by Eurojet saw a major new FBO and engineering facility open in May 2011. But a lack of demand saw the project closed three years later.
On the other hand look at Mineta San Jose Airport in the US. Google are investing $82 million in building a new private jet terminal there. Why? Because it’s on the doorstep of Silicon Valley, home to their Googleplex and the HQs of other major corporations. The location demand came first, then the new FBO followed.
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