What Is An Airport FBO? Everything You Need To Know About Fixed Base Operators

You might have heard the term ‘FBO’ used to describe the private jet terminal or lounge at the airport. But what does it mean?

When it comes to the logistics of your private jet charter, the FBO plays a huge role; we explain:

Departure lounge at advanced aerovision Paris Le Bourget

What Is A FBO?

Fixed Base Operator, or FBO, refers to the private jet services available at an airport. In some cases, this can mean a small VIP lounge within the general airport terminal, or it can involve a large facility built specifically for private jet usage, offering a range of services for private jet customers, aircraft, and crew.

How Do I Find The FBO?

You will be given the address details of the airport FBO when you book a private jet flight. Smaller airports will only have one FBO, while other larger airports can have several, giving you a choice of which you prefer to use. It is common for private jet customers to have a preference for certain FBOs and will specify this at booking.

Departure lounge at Landmark Paris Le Bourget

What Can I Expect From The FBO Experience?

Upon arrival at the FBO, you will meet the captain of your flight and will be greeted by the reception staff at the desk – if there is one. There are plenty of seats to choose from if you are waiting for additional passengers, however in many cases, the private jet customer will move through the FBO very quickly.

Many private aviation customers are in and out again so quickly that they don’t even see much of the FBO at all!

Most FBOs offer Wi-Fi access, light refreshments, and bathroom facilities. Larger or more specialized FBOs also offer luxury concierge, conference, and hotel rooms for customers who choose to spend more time there.

Some will also feature services for passengers traveling by private jet with babies or young children; or those flying with pets.

To take a tour of a FBO, watch this video CEO Adam Twidell made at London Stansted’s Inflight:

Do I Go Through Security At The FBO?

Yes. Regardless of the size of an FBO, or the amenities offered, quick and unobtrusive security and immigration checks will be made in addition to the pre-clearance that has already taken place.

Where Does The Term FBO Come From?

The term FBO, or fixed base operator, dates back to the days of unregulated civil aviation in the USA in the 1920s.

Aircraft were relatively inexpensive to come by in these post-war years, with a surplus of ex-military aircraft available, so transient pilots, known as “barnstormers”, took advantage by using the aircraft to offer passenger flight, aerobatic displays or air shows for the locals. These “barnstormers” would travel all over the US, landing in farmers’ fields at the edge of town, rather than at airports, and charging whatever the local market would pay for their services.

The transient nature of their jobs and lives meant that these aviators moved around with the aircraft and had no fixed business location.

US Top 10 FBOs 2016

Then in 1926, the US Air Commerce Act came into effect. This enforced many new licensing for pilots, and the regulation of aircraft maintenance and training standards. Pilots and mechanics then began establishing registered businesses, at a given fixed address. These were termed Fixed Base Operations or Operators – to distinguish them from the transient aviators of old.

Until recently, the term FBO was applied to the aircraft operator who was based at the airport (which is still the case for many smaller, private jet airports). When a private flight wanted to land at an airfield which was not their home base, they would contact the Fixed Base Operator at the airport, in order to make the practical arrangements for the fight to land there.

But as the industry evolved and the private jet flight movements became busier, a need arose to create third party organizations to manage facilities for customers and crew at busier airports – such as refuelling, security, hangars, lounges, car parking, and concierge.

What’s New In FBOs?

Since the recession in 2008, the private jet industry has changed in many ways, with the ownership of FBOs taking a particularly noticeable shift. In the 1990s, there were lots of smaller, independent companies running FBOs. Now we are seeing much more consolidation. It’s a competitive field and known brands are now evolving to compete.

For example, Signature Flight Support is the biggest name, with over 100 locations worldwide. Landmark Aviation is another big player, with over 50 FBOs under its management.

But bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to owners of FBOs. Each FBO will have its own niche. Some look to compete on fuel pricing, others for exceptional VIP services for royalty, heads of state or other high profile travellers.

Teterboro Airport in New York, one of the busiest and most popular private jet airports in the US, boasts six state-of-the-art FBOs. Paris Le Bourget has the most FBOs than any other airport, offering a choice of eight, while London Luton Airport offers three.

Other airports are busy opening FBOs for the first time to business and private aviation customers.

For private jet charter pricing or advice, please contact us online or call us at (866) 726-1222.