Setting Standards

Setting Standards Executive Jet guidelines seek to ensure and upgrade quality service for clients, entire industry BY John Boyce, Contributing Editor May 1999 Is it the wave of the future or the proverbial 800-pound gorilla...

Piedmont Hawthorne and National were among several FBO independents, chains, and groups asked by EJ to make comments and suggestions on the requirements package. While several asked that some changes be made, for the most part they were comfortable with the overall program because it largely contained things they were already doing or things that FBOs should be doing.

"The impact for us will be relatively minimal," says Little Rock's Central Flying Service operations manager Joe Fawcett. "There are just a couple of new things that we will have to do like the modem line requirements in flight planning."

John Stafford, vice president at Showalter Flyer Service in Orlando, agrees: "It's an agreement, in a lot of ways, that you sign every single day when you report for work. The standards they're asking for are pretty much industry standards; the only thing is they tailor them more to their operation. ...I think what is unique to this one is that they want to be kept in the loop. Anytime there are any changes on the airport or within your business that could restrict their service, they want to know. They want the FBO to be proactive and warn them ahead of time. I think that's very unique."

One of the areas of concern for Stafford and others in an early draft of the requirements was the requirement that the liability insurance minimum be $30 million, which would have worked a hardship on or barred participation by many smaller, independent FBOs. EJ has revised that down to $10 million, which, says Stafford, is "fair and equitable for everybody concerned" and is probably what even small FBOs have.

Other requirements that pertain to personnel and equipment could pose something of a problem for the smaller FBO that is interested in participating. Says Fawcett, "You want to believe that all the FBOs are operating on the same standards of training and so forth, but given various financial constraints and personnel turnover and all those variables," it isn't always done. "They will have to spend a little more time and money on training and training materials. They will more likely have to upgrade towing equipment and even (do) some facility modification, depending on their situation.

"If they don't already have agreements with vendors for catering and limousine services and all those externals, they will have to develop those."

EJ's Liston doesn't necessarily agree that extra personnel would be necessary. "If we can do a better of job of telling them when we're coming," he says, "then they can be better prepared for us, and they can fine tune their head count and perhaps even do more with less."

In its requirements package, Executive Jet has included optional attendance at what the company calls EJ 101, a periodic one-day orientation program that provides "FBO personnel a chance to see firsthand the unique demands of a fractional ownership program."

Signature Flight Support, as a result of attendance at such a program in combination with its experience with fractionals, has modified its training program to include handling fractional aircraft. Explains Mary Miller, Signature's VP for customer relations: "We just rolled out an entire service standards training program in which we address fractionals.

"...We're having to educate and train our front counter people to be more appreciative and understanding of the passenger that Executive Jet is bringing into our terminal because you are literally talking about a first class airline passenger."

Miller goes on to explain that EJ uses flight numbers instead of tail numbers to identify flights because, for one reason or another, the aircraft and crew might change, but the flight stays the same. "That helps us with making sure the ground transportation is ordered, the right passenger gets on the right airplane, the right catering gets on. We use the tail number to crossreference and dispatch fuel trucks."

EJ has played down the aspect of the fuel business in its requirements. Explains EJ's Schweitzer, "We do not negotiate fuel price with this document and it's not intended to." Instead, EJ asks for a list of all fuel incentive programs at an FBO and that crews automatically be given "previously negotiated discounts" and not be required to ask for them.

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