Handling the FBOs

Fixed Base Operators offer a look inside the day-to-day business of customer service on the general aviation side of the airport ramp, reports Michelle Garetson. October 2003 What is an FBO? Depends on who you ask, but the acronym can stand...

When asked how security practices and other practices have changed or not changed since 9/11, Jorash answers, "We've tightened up what we were doing and in some cases, added some new procedures. At BOS, the airport authority requires us to screen passengers similar to the airlines, so we had to buy an X-ray machine. Each airport has its own security plan, which are all fairly extensive and we comply with them and in a lot of cases, exceed what is required. Security has heightened awareness and focus and we feel like we are leaders in that area. We look at that as a customer service function and not as a hindrance to our ability to do our job."

Malec has seen plenty of changes in his 26 years at the BDL location. "I am proud to say that my whole career is based at Bradley International," he says. "They've always done a great job with security, even before 9/11. Since 9/11, no doubt about it, things have been stepped up - there has been more visual surveillance, camera surveillance, human surveillance, the screening, background checks, and the fingerprinting. TACAir has adopted some of our own enhancements and a lot of it came from TSA, some came from the state of Connecticut, and some from FAA. Access to the ramp areas is a lot more limited now. Awareness is the biggest thing an FBO faces with keeping the employees non-complacent. You can't ever relax your vigilance."

He continues, "We have a security committee on the airport that's sanctioned with the state of Connecticut as well as TSA and there are monthly meetings, that are referred to as Tenant Meetings." Malec points out that background checks were always required and that Bradley now has the electronic fingerprinting equipment. He also advises on the importance of challenging people by making sure that their badges are displayed. Also, accepting and receiving packages is a no-no unless you know it's coming. "In the old days, he recalls, "if a customer knew he was flying into here on a Wednesday, and you didn't know that but there might be a package for him that showed up on Tuesday - you would just hold it for him. Today, you just don't do that. You don't know what could be in it."

Both Jorash and Malec are responsible for hiring employees and offer what is important to look for in candidates.

"Primarily I'm looking for someone who is flexible, open-minded, and wants to be in customer service," says Jorash. "The Signature training program will teach them everything they need to know on the aviation side. We have a professional service standards training course in-house and we also follow the NATA Safety 1st program. That has worked out excellently for us and we do recertify them as well as put them through the initial training." Jorash's BOS facility has 46 employees comprised of Management, Customer Services, Line Technicians, and Safety Officer.

"We've got a great bunch of people, we're looking for people who are responsible and have a true passion for the business," says Malec. "What we sell is Customer Service. Without good service, we're not going to sell the fuel, etc. We hire for the attitude, we can train for the career. If they have the desire to want to serve and adopt our philosophies, then we can provide and do provide all the training that's necessary."

The TACAir facility at BDL has 26 employees. "We went through a period of vacancies back a couple of years, when times were tougher," says Malec, "but we've got a nice, stable work force and that [26] was the magic number back when TACAir bought us - we didn't have it then, but we've achieved it."

Finding new employees can present some challenges according to Malec. "Over the years, there have been different economic times. At one time, a simple ad in the local paper can get you all the applicants you need. Other times, it doesn't work and it's very costly to use the newspapers. Word of mouth is helpful - existing employees know of someone and they know what's going to be expected of them because they're already here. When TACAir first purchased us, we had several vacancies and it was difficult."

Challenges For FBO General Managers
"Fun - it's all fun. I love what I do," admits Jorash. "It's something that is deeply ingrained. I wake up in the morning and I look forward to going to work, I'm not looking for a reason not to. I thoroughly enjoy getting out on the ramp and meeting our customers, working with the aircraft and equipment. Keeping in touch with the business I think, is a prerequisite for being a good manager."

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