If you are an investor or equity sponsor in the field of aviation, you may have many questions regarding on-airport services. In North America and parts of Europe, the roles of different operators and service providers at an airport are well defined, while in other countries local ground handlers are associated with many of those same operations. In this post, we will take an overview of different services at a public airport, along with the things you can expect, especially if you need direct assistance in finding the best service provider to meet your needs.
Overview of Fixed-Based Operator (FBO) services
Fixed-Based Operator (FBO) services basically operate key airport infrastructure and facilities in aviation, usually under a long-term lease directly from the airport. The services can vary depending on the nature and size of the airport, but the core profile often remains the same. FBOs are responsible for a number of different roles. They provide critical line service functions such as the handling, fueling and hanging of private aircraft, manage the passenger terminal, crew lounges, and other facilities, and may also offer certain maintenance and repair services. The size and location of FBOs determine their services to a large extent. Full-service FBOs are extremely popular in North America and Europe, while in other areas such as Australia and parts of Asia the demand for these services is increasing.
Overview of ground handlers
Ground handlers, on the other hand, are usually licensed by the airport as a concessionaire. They may provide the general services that are required in the sector, mainly at airports which do not possess the requisite infrastructure for full FBO services. These companies mostly deal with below-wing services, although in some cases they do deal with above-wing services. In this context, it’s important to understand the distinction between above-wing and below-wing services.
1. Above Wing services – These include a wide range of services, including some of the services that are offered by FBOs, such as ensuring catering onboard, cleaning flights at technical stops, following and managing passenger and crew, and anything that’s directly related to the flight’s management. These services also include managing the ground accommodation of crew and passengers, besides concierge services.
2. Below Wing services – These services include aircraft handling, fueling, management of ground support equipment, movement of baggage, and any required hangar services. All ground handlers who do below-wing services must have specific operating rights from the airport, own the necessary equipment and be specifically trained for various functions such as towing, marshaling, fueling, etc. They must also have proper insurance in place at a minimum amount specified by the airport. In some parts of the world, ground handlers may need additional certification.
When it comes to aviation infrastructure management, FBOs specialize in different areas, although they are all expected to perform certain core line functions. Fixed Base Operators understand the needs of private aviation, whether corporate or recreational, and can offer direct assistance to the flying public. Some companies may have additional experience in facility management as well. If you have aviation assets and are seeking professional management, you should closely review a prospective service provider’s experience and breadth and depth of service offering. If you are seeking help for international assets, then the service provider should have a proven track record in global operations.