Fixed Based Operators: What to Expect at FBOs for Private Jets


Mar 20, 2024

15 min read

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    If you fly private, you’ve already experienced the difference of flying out of a fixed base operator (FBO) terminal. These private and luxuriously equipped facilities serve aircraft, pilots, and passengers alike — starkly contrasting their public terminal counterparts.

    Outfitted with plush, comfortable, and quiet seating spaces, valet parking, and sophisticated design more at home in a five-star hotel than an airport lounge, FBOs for private jets strive to make every takeoff a comfortable one. They have become a pivotal part of the private aviation experience.

    If you’ve ever had questions about the role, features, and possibilities offered by FBOs, we’ve got all the details below.

    What Is a Private Jet FBO?

    A fixed-base operator, or FBO, is a private terminal at an airport that serves private aircraft owners and passengers. Private FBOs are smaller than most public, commercial airports, even if they operate from the same airport grounds and use the same runway.

    The core difference between a typical airport terminal and an FBO, is that the latter type does not service commercial airline operators, like Delta or American Airlines. Instead, they serve privately owned, corporate, and charter aircraft, which together fall under a general aviation designation.

    At their most basic, FBOs provide fueling, hangarage, private jet charters, maintenance, and in some cases, flight instruction. But FBOs don’t just serve planes. They also serve passengers, and increasingly with upgraded amenities like ultra-comfortable passenger lounges, car rentals, valet parking, and bespoke services like travel concierge and/or gourmet catering.

    FBOS are an essential part of the infrastructure for private and corporate jets, providing the support and facilities for these aircraft to operate seamlessly.

    What Is a Private Jet FBO

    What Can You Expect at a Private Jet FBO?

    FBOs serving private jets offer a wide range of service levels. From basic hangars offering fuel service and essential aircraft maintenance to extravagant multi-million-dollar terminals with golf simulators and gourmet light meals, you can find it all across the spectrum of FBOs.

    A typical FBO, particularly one serving chartered private jets, will have a standard set of passenger amenities:

    Personalized Concierge Service

    At most private FBOs, a dedicated concierge is available to greet all arrivals and assist with everything from baggage handling to ground transportation to post-flight travel plans. This hyper-personalized service is tailored to your needs, whether making last-minute hotel bookings or arranging specific in-flight amenities.

    Gourmet Food and Beverage Services

    You can also expect access to high-end catering options, from fine wines and artisanal snacks in the lounge to custom-catered meals aboard your flight. The quality is markedly different from the fast food and subpar sad sandwiches at commercial terminals. Expect snacks and light meals for a more discerning clientele.

    Sophisticated Lounge and Passenger Amenities

    These aren’t your standard waiting rooms. FBO lounges are designed wholly around their guests’ comfort and privacy. At many newer facilities, you’ll find a space decked out with luxurious furnishings, high-speed Wi-Fi, and cozy seating. Depending on the FBO, you may even find private meeting rooms, spa services, and sleeping spaces.

    Flying Private? Choosing an FBO

    The great news is that the FBO where you land or take off from as a passenger is arranged by the charter operator or aircraft management company you work with. With your mission details in place, you can easily leave all the planning and coordination safely in the hands of the experts.

    Charter operators frequently have long-term relationships with specific FBOs founded on years of good service. Based on your booking details, your operator will decide which FBO will best satisfy all your booking requirements.

    Of course, if you prefer to fly out of one FBO over another, you can work with your charter operator to lock this into your quote. Keep in mind that FBOs are independently owned and operated and set their own service fees and fuel prices. Changing FBOs can impact the final quote.

    Why would you want to choose a specific FBO? You may want to switch FBO due to the passenger amenities, local traffic issues, service fees, or parking options. As just one example of many, there may be times when driving an extra 15 minutes to a smaller terminal and a different FBO will save you an hour’s wait on the runway at a more popular terminal.

    As always, the Volato™ Experience Concierge Team will be happy to help you find an FBO that fits your priorities.

    flying private jet

    What is the Difference Between a Commercial Terminal and an FBO?

    Feature Commercial Terminal Fixed Base Operator (FBO)
    Purpose Serves commercial airline passengers. Caters to private and general aviation, including private jets, charter flights, and corporate jets.
    Size and Scale Larger and busier, for high volume of passengers and commercial aircraft. Smaller, more exclusive, focused on personalized service for individuals and small groups of VIPs.
    Amenities Check-in counters, baggage handling, large waiting lounges, greater dining and shopping options. Exclusive lounges, door-to-door baggage handling, valet parking, meeting rooms, limited but higher-end dining/retail options. Newer FBOS may even have golf simulators and sleeping facilities.
    Atmosphere and Design Large crowds, long lineups, and highly stressful. Designed for efficiency over aesthetics. Quieter and calmer atmosphere, with no crowds, no lineups. Design often is more closely aligned with a luxury resort over an airport lounge.
    Customer Service Limited number of service agents for the volume of passengers. Non-personalized. Hyper-personalized white-glove service, serving passengers and pilots alike.
    Accessibility and Infrastructure Accessible via public transport, taxis, ride-sharing; large and distant pay-for-parking areas. Private/restricted access; convenient parking and/or valet services.

    Although FBOs exist on the same grounds as commercial airports, the similarities stop there. From the moment your car pulls up to an FBO terminal, you’ll immediately notice the differences.

    Private FBOs are much smaller than their commercial counterparts, and instead of serving tens of thousands of possible passengers a day, they might serve only a few thousand.

    These terminals are reserved for an exclusive private jet clientele. As you enter the terminal, you’ll immediately discover a calmer, quieter atmosphere. There are no long lineups, no frustrations bubbling over at check-in counters, and no delays getting through security. From baggage handling to check-in, you’ll get highly personalized service and a more efficient check-in process.

    Plus, if you arrive with a bit of time before takeoff, you can take advantage of a beautifully appointed FBO lounge with Wi-Fi connectivity and comfortable, private seating areas. This stands in stark contrast to the crowded and noisy gates common at public terminals. At an FBO, you’ll never have to fight to find seating among hundreds of passengers.

    Experience the Difference: Fly from an FBO Private Jet Terminal

    FBOs are designed around the needs of private and corporate jets, their pilots, and, of course, their passengers. Unlike the chaos and long lineups we’ve all come to expect from commercial terminals, FBOs provide an elevated, upgraded, and highly personalized passenger experience.

    From the moment you arrive at a private jet FBO, the differences are palpable: a serene atmosphere, superior concierge services, and amenities that cater to comfort, privacy, and mission efficiency.

    Ready to change the way you fly? Book your next mission with Volato™. Let us handle the details.

    Private Jet Terminal

    FBO Private Airport FAQs

    Are there parking and valet services available at an FBO?

    Yes, you’ll find secure parking and often valet parking services at many upgraded FBOs, especially those at major transit hubs. Many FBOs also have covered, heated garages with direct entry into the terminal itself.

    Can I choose the FBO I fly out of?

    In most cases, the private jet charter team or your aircraft management company will choose a suitable FBO based on your mission details. But, if you have any specific preferences, you can request to fly out of or taxi into your FBO of choice.

    Remember, every FBO has a slightly different fee structure and fuel price differences. While a relatively minor consideration for most flights, it is worth noting for those looking at the charter quote by line item.

    Can you sleep at an FBO?

    As a passenger, you would be hard-pressed to find an FBO offering overnight accommodation services on-site. However, some facilities may have quiet rooms, and you can always lean on the FBO’s concierge services to arrange nearby off-site accommodation.

    As a pilot, many private FBOs offer quiet spaces for the flight staff. For example, Million Air just opened an FBO in White Plains, New York. It has on-site showers and two snooze rooms catering to pilots.

    Who owns jet FBOs?

    Fixed-based operators are privately owned operations, and there are more than 3,000 independent operators across the US. According to the 2018 Pilots’ Choice Awards, a few of the country’s top FBOs include McKinney Air Center in North Texas, Banyan Air Service Business Jet Center in South Florida, and Million Air in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Where are FBOs located?

    In most circumstances, you’ll find FBOs located on the same grounds as the larger commercial airport, although they are often concentrated on one end of the property. However, if you are taking a private car to an FBO, Google Maps may have difficulty finding it because FBOs take the security and privacy of their passengers seriously.

    Contact your charter broker or Volato’s Experience Concierge for accurate directions.

    Can airports have more than one private FBO?

    Larger airports serving major transit hubs almost always have multiple FBOs. But, if you are flying out of a rural terminal in a smaller market, there may only be one or two FBOs on site. As a private jet passenger, choosing a suitable FBO to meet your needs is all a part of the planning process, but it is a part you can easily leave to Volato’s Experience Concierge team.

    Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. Volato is not responsible for omissions or inaccuracies in such information, or for data that is no longer accurate due to delay, change in law, rules, or regulations.

    The choice is clear.

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