Mark Patiky FORBES
Save Time On The Ground As Well As In The Air
September 12, 2013
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  • What’s the point of traveling at 500 miles per hour in the sky if you lose the advantage traveling at a snail’s pace on the ground? After all, isn’t that what commercial travel is all about? On many commercial trips, you’ll spend more time in an airline terminal than you will in the air.

    That’s where business aviation comes in. One enormous benefit of business aircraft  is the ability to land at more than 5,000 airports across the country. That means whatever your ultimate destination, the likelihood of landing 10 or 15 minutes away is excellent. Not only can you fly on your schedule rather than an airline’s, but, more important, you’ll avoid the massive speed bump called the airline terminal, where massive amounts of time can be lost just in getting to the gate and boarding. 

    Business aircraft fliers have a far better deal. At every airport, the private terminals serving business jets, private aircraft, military flights — everyone other than the airlines — are called FBOs (the cryptic definition comes later). FBOs are effectively the high-speed gateway to and from your ultimate destination. They are the equivalent of the EZ Pass lane on the interstate because you virtually never have to stop, unless, of course, you wish to. Your rental car can be waiting steps from the plane so you can drive away immediately or go inside and take advantage of a conference room designed for client meetings or just relax in the comfortable lounge area and enjoy some refreshments.

    Contributor Jeff Miller found that while private air terminals are particularly adept at handling globe-spanning jets carrying a dozen passengers with varying needs, they are equally proficient in serving small general aviation aircraft with minimal needs. 

    Jeff Miller ( specializes in corporate communications for the business aviation and luxury goods markets, and operates his own advertising agency dedicated to brand marketing. He has led corporate communications for Learjet and Gulfstream.

    With Business Aviation, The Biggest Time Savings Could Be On The Ground 

    by Jeff Miller

    Returning to the Heritage private aviation terminal at Vermont’s Burlington International Airport, we pulled our rental car up to the Mooney parked on the ramp out front and loaded our bags directly into the airplane. The line attendant kindly took the car away, saving that little chore, and pretty quickly we were on our way back to New York City. 

    After landing at Caldwell Airport in Northern New Jersey, we reversed the process, unloading right into our car alongside the plane. You see, it’s not just the plane that saves time in the world of business and private aviation. It’s also the private aviation terminal or “FBO.” Think about the time you save this way versus going through an airline terminal. Sometimes the time saved is more than the flight duration itself.

    FBO stands for “fixed base operation.” The name is said to derive from itinerant barnstorming pilots in the 1920s, who, tiring of their gypsy lifestyles, established service facilities on airports, and often established the airports themselves. Hence they were fixed (permanent) bases. 

    FBOs come in all shapes and sizes, with the full-service variety most often found at the busier business aviation destinations. Larger FBOs often have meeting room facilities and other amenities, so you can step off your plane, met with a client right at the airport, re-board and head for your next destination without missing a beat. What you will miss is a cumbersome drive through a downtown metroplex, car parking concerns .

    At Teterboro Airport, a stone’s throw from busy Newark International, for example, you’ll find six competing facilities dedicated to serving the varied needs of business and private aviation travelers. Some such as Jet Aviation, provide comfortable passenger lounges outfitted like a fine hotel lobby including espresso, coffee machines and snacks; concierge service to arrange hotels, car service and rentals and other needs; flight crew lounges  including snooze rooms and weather and flight planning tools; conference rooms with audio, video and catering facilities; and of course every possible aircraft fueling and maintenance service. 

    Other FBOs like the one at Caldwell, a smaller field ten miles to the west, offer significantly fewer amenities but they are generally staffed with a helpful person behind the reception desk who can typically arrange for most aircraft, passenger and pilot needs. Many of these FBOs are small Ma and Pa operations while others are parts of national or global chains, such as Signature, Landmark and Jet Aviation.

    Heritage, in Burlington, Vermont, is independently owned. Having never been there before, it was a total surprise—a five-star facility, with a lobby comparable to a high-end Hyatt, plus (per my brief exploration) a professional kitchen, a large and bright dining area, large marble restrooms and an excellent pilot briefing room with computerized aviation weather access. 

    The key thing for business aviation users is the ability to move from landside to airside and back again quickly. After all, what’s the point of traveling at hundreds of miles an hour in the sky only to come to a grinding halt when you land.

    You could say FBOs are glorified gas stations, because that’s mainly how they make their money. The better the FBO facility, the higher the gas price, for the most part.  But if the service level is high, the price is probably justified in my view. A lot of corporate flight departments negotiate fuel prices with FBOs on their own or through affiliation with fuel program providers such as Colt International and UVair. 

    As someone who rarely purchases more than 60 gallons at a time, I’ll never get a bulk discount. But I almost always buy when I visit an FBO, even if it’s only 15 gallons, because I feel like a freeloader if I don’t.

    When they put a red carpet down, as they did at Heritage, before you step off the wing of a little Mooney, they’re working hard for your business.