One in a Million (Air)

The FBO that set a new facility standard in 1984 pushes onward, with the same owner

In April, Million Air hosted a ‘Wings and Wheels’ event to attract aircraft owners and charter prospects. Director of marketing Debbie Staggs comments that such events are now in the forefront of the company’s marketing approach — in line with the goal of connecting to owners.

Hopkins says that the FBO has been hit the past two years by the economic downturn, tracking with industry drops of 30 percent or more. At the height of the boom in 2007, Million Air was pumping some 500,000 gallons of fuel per month; today that figure is holding at around 300,000 gallons, say officials.

Interestingly, Hopkins says the charter and aircraft management division hasn’t been hit as hard, defying an industry trend, and that the company is seeing a significant uptick in lift in recent months.

Explains Hopkins, “This month, we doubled the amount of flight hours that we did a year ago this month – in 15 days. That’s a pretty good sign.

“The quality of the clientele is very good, too; we have prominent individuals and businesses that have uses and needs for the aircraft. They’re looking for a good management company to operate them. That’s worked out real well.

“We try to stay away from the guy who wants us to pay for his airplane. That doesn’t usually work so well.”

Million Air recently completed a refurbishment of its original lobby and interior, and is in the planning stage for a new 40,000-square foot hangar complex that will be for the exclusive use of charter/management customers.

“The cool thing about that is we’re going to have another lobby there, and that lobby will be just for our managed aircraft and charter customers,” relates Hopkins.

“We’re going to split up the business and make that a private terminal just for them. Then we’ll use this terminal for our transients and the rest of our based customers. We think that’s going to be a nice little niche in charter management – give them a bit of privacy and make them feel special. They all like that.”

Today, a franchisee

In 1985, Million Air launched the industry’s first FBO franchise enterprise — Million Air Interlink — creating a nationwide branding and marketing initiative into which locally owned operators could join to expand their market reach. A local FBO could now be perceived as part of a national chain, or brand.

During most of the ensuing years, the company was headed up by Lou Pepper, who today is president of Atlantic Aviation. Hopkins explains that Rogers subsequently sold the franchise company to Pepper, who teamed up with investors to acquire Atlantic. The Interlink franchise was subsequently sold to the Houston Million Air, headed up by Roger Woolsey.

Comments Hopkins, “They’ve done a real good job of bringing consistency to the franchises. Roger is a big help to new FBOs who have no idea how an FBO operates. He’s a huge help with the training classes.

“He’s brought a lot of excitement to the business; he’s full of energy.”

Once the franchise’s headquarters, Million Air at Addison is today one of the franchisees. Officials here view the change as just another part of FBO history.

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