For FBOs around the world, the past year was a roller coaster from the lowest of lows to new peaks as the world continued to adjust and adapt to the Covid pandemic. While governments closed borders and/or instituted strict testing and quarantine protocols upon entry, business aviation waned.
“Like many in the industry we experienced a reduction in flying hours and FBO movements due to the uncertainty around travel and border restrictions,” said Darren McGoldrick, ExecuJet’s vice president for Asia Pacific. “The aircraft we did handle were generally smaller types than we usually see, as our clients found themselves staying closer to home and not requiring the use of larger, long-range jets.”
“Covid-19 continued to impact tradeshows, sports events, and our beloved Oktoberfest, meaning, for the second year in a row, it was canceled,” stated Oliver Trono, general manager of Signature Flight Support’s Munich FBO.
Yet for many leisure destinations, even amid the restrictions, traffic began to rebound as passengers sought to escape crowded cities in favor of more soothing environments.
Francesco Cossu, general manager of Eccelsa Aviation, the airport-owned FBO at Sardinia’s Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, noted the vacation location saw a 30 percent decline in traffic during the height of the pandemic. “However, Olbia in 2021 recorded the full recovery of arrivals and departures of private planes, with the final figures higher than in 2019, which had been a record year for us.”
Normally busy business aviation hubs, such as London, also reported improvement. “Traffic levels in Q1 (2021) were extremely slow with much of UK and Europe in lockdown,” explained Dominic Osborne, FBO director at dedicated business aviation gateway Farnborough Airport, adding that by the third quarter of the year, as restrictions eased, he saw movements across Europe begin to increase. “The leisure season helped drive levels and seemingly continued beyond the summer months, though traditional business-oriented destinations did make some comeback.” He told AIN that for the second half of 2021, the airport set monthly traffic total records.
Far off destinations have seen inconsistency as well over the past two years. “Given the fact that Thailand and our neighboring countries still retain some form of quarantine and Covid-related entry requirements, traffic has taken a serious drop since 2020,” said Natthapatr Sibunruang, CEO of Mjets FBO. “The last few months have shown positive signs of the market slowly recovering with a notable uptick in traffic and interest shown for inbound operations.”
He added that the company weathered the storm by adapting as most locations were forced to do. “We managed to cut off many frills, and become leaner to sustain the drastic drop of revenue.”
Yet, despite these setbacks, FBOs continued to do what they do best, provide their customers with the attention and dedication they expect, even under trying circumstances. In Part 2 of our annual FBO survey report, we present this year’s top-rated locations outside the Americas according to AIN’s readership.