The term FBO has gained popularity in the aviation industry around the world, including across Canada. Over time the industry has evolved as the needs and requirements have changed and fixed based operators have become an essential part of the aviation world. Many private jet passengers have een developed a preference for one FBO over an another and actively plan their travel itineraries to land at a specific FBO over another. There are numerous FBOs across the nation. Here we take a look at the best fixed-based operators in Canada 2020.
As the aviation industry has grown, thus has the need for fixed base operators. Also known as FBOs, they are a place that offers two key services in private aviation. Firstly, where passengers depart and arrive and secondly, the site that services the aircraft. Select Aero CEO David Riley, refers to the ideal private jet experience as being, “One seamless experience where the passenger doesn’t need to know there is multiple companies acting in the process. Private jet passengers want to fly with flexibility, efficiency and privacy to their destination.” FBOs help deliver that premium experience
The term FBOs was coined in America after the Air Commerce Act of 1926, as a way to distinguish between pilots who settled down and established permanent operations from the transient pilots and operations. Before this act was established, during these early days of air travel, there had not yet been any regulations regarding these important aircraft services. Due to a lack of previous aviation requirements, up until this act, mechanics and instructors did not have a permanent workspace. They often traveled with flight crews to numerous locations. This act required for pilots to be licensed, aircraft to receive proper maintenance, and began the regulation of aircraft crew and pilot training. Soon after our first FBOs appeared, in 1963 our first private jets graced the skies, and the aviation industry has been since ever-growing.
What Services do Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) Offer?
The private aviation market has different handling requirements then in public or commercial aviation. A more tailored service is required for a variety of different scenarios. These services can be put into two categories, above-wing and below-wing. For private jet charters, FBOs offer a variety of services to the pilot, crew, and the aircraft. Most common amenities offered at fixed based operators include:
Above-wing support passengers and crew:
- Customs and Immigration
- Concierge Services
- In-flight Catering
- Baggage Handling
- Conference/Meeting Facilities
- Pilot’s Lounges
Below-wing includes all the services surrounding the aircraft:
- Fueling(some FBOs also offer a fueling discount)
- Lavatory and water services
- Hangar or tie-down services
- Air taxi or chartering options
- Aircraft Rental
- Air carrier services and ground support services (i.e. stairs if needed, ground power units)
- Aircraft sales and service
- Aircraft maintenance and repair services
- Towing services
- Aircraft part sales
- Pilot and crew training
FBOs also typically provide basic services to clients, crew, and pilots including restrooms and private waiting areas. Bottom line, a good FBO facilitates the necessary services for a seamless transition towards the overall flying experience.
From Good to Great – What Sets a FBO Apart from the Others?
Choosing a fixed base operator can be a difficult decision. At first glance, it appears fixed base operators offer most of the same services, for the crew, pilot, and aircraft. So, what sets one FBO apart from the others? A skilled pilot or flight dispatcher will select a fixed based operator based on several factors. First, and foremost, customer relations and reviews, are an important factor in this decision. The location of the FBO, in relation to client convenience, is also of importance. What sets one FBO apart from the others is simply a memorable, pleasurable, and positive experience for the jet owner, passengers, pilot and flight crew. The staff at the FBO locations make all the difference in each of these experiences. Hello, a smile and a “what can we do to assist you”, can go a long way in impressing and pleasing clients. Of course, luxury amenities are also important to those flying private. Some fixed base operators offer amenities not traditionally included such as catering, food vending, showers, ground transportation arrangements, aviation supply shops, flight planning, and concierge services for both crew and clients through a customer service representative.
And we should not overlook the importance of facility upgrades, staying up to date with safety codes, and even offering sustainable aviation fuel to lower environmental impact. Top FBOs are also incorporating other sustainable measures to make their facilities “greener” such as solar panels, innovative building design, electric vehicles for ground crew, and grey water filtering and recycling.
Canada’s Best Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) of the Year
With many fixed based operators, offering many of the same services, we went above and beyond in choosing the finest FBOs for our list. Taking into consideration fuel pricing, building amenities, shared client experiences, innovative initiatives, and numerous reviews, to compile this list of the best FBOs in Canada of 2020.
Best in Quebec – Montreal/St-Hubert Airport
HUB FBO / AvFuel/H-18
HUB FBO is the newest fixed-based operator in the Montreal area. This FBO is located at Montreal/St-Hubert Airport. Location is everything in regard to this facility, as it is only 15 minutes from downtown Montreal. AvFuel/H-18 is also pleased to provide a crew car for clients during their stay. Have one of the largest heated hangars in the area, essential in the harsh Quebec winters. They are gaining a strong reputation for their valuable advice regarding local restaurants, accommodations, and arranging ground transportation.
Pierre-Elliot Trudeau International Airport (Montreal)
Starlink Aviation FBO
At Starlink Aviation their services go above and beyond in terms of facility structure and amenities. Discovering all the amenities in one location results in positive customer reviews. Amenities include meeting facilities, client lounge, WiFi access, courtesy transportation, onsite car and limo services, discounted hotel rates for passengers and crew, gourmet catering, shower facilities, snooze rooms, crew lounge, Jet-A Fuel, sophisticated operations control center and computerized weather service.
Starlink also has a heated 65,000 sq.ft. hangar for those frigid winters, on-site customs, and highly experienced ground crew and maintenance staff to manage and care for your aircraft. A favourite for many travelling to Toronto given their reputation for efficient and effortless flight experiences. They are committed to excellence and a member of the Signature Flight Support Network.
Best in Central Canada – Kreos Aviation YXE (Saskatoon)
For private jet charters, Kreos Aviation removed all the noise and business associated with the airport. Their private FBO is a privately operated, first-class facility offering meeting rooms, a pilot lounge, and a variety of services. Despite being an off the beaten path for international travellers, they offer access to Customs and Border services. Kreos Aviation put itself above the competition with its extraordinary concierge services. No request is too large for their team of dedicated customer service representatives. Any request, they will do their best to schedule accommodations. This focus on customer satisfaction has many private jet fliers returning to Kreos Aviation trip after trip.
Best in Atlantic Canada- Halifax Stanfield International Airport
Gateway was honored with the 2016 Pilots’ Choice Award as the top FBO in Canada. Their facility is known for the luxurious attention to detail it provides to clients. Complimentary coffee, hot beverages, and snacks. They also provide local shuttle service, free Wi-Fi, a crew lounge, and even a room for pilots to nap to ensure the safety of the next departure. They offer a full kitchen with meals, boxed lunches, and hot entrees to go. They also offer exceptional, well-received services, such as discounted hotel accommodations and rental cars. Their heated hangar is 13,000 sq feet and can accommodate up to a Bombardier RJ-200.
Best in Western Canada- Vancouver International Airport
Vancouver International Airport is famous for its superb location, located only nine miles from downtown Vancouver, it is the premier location entry to British Columbia. For private jet travelers, this airport offers three luxurious FBOs that offer a variety of extensive services. On-site concierge, car rentals, conference rooms, and private lounge areas, but this one down as a customer favorite. The three FBO’s on-site are listed below.
Million Air is the largest fixed-based operator in the city. This made its services and location the choice for 60% of jets in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Their impressively large facility covers over 280,000 sq. feet. For clients, they offer incredible views of the tarmac and mountains, comfortable lounge (with a fireplace!), conference space, luxury transportation services and rest space for crew. And not to be minimized 24/7 customs clearance next door. Their super friendly and helpful concierge service team promise a VIP experience to everyone who comes through their doors. And with the recent addition of dnata nearby, first class catering, including kosher and halal needs, the best gourmet dining is obtainable round the clock.
Million Air also have 24/7 aircraft maintenance with their partner Penta Aviation, including onsite cleaning and detailing of aircraft and access to laundry service. Million Air is the ideal choice for large jet stops in the Vancouver area due to ample ramp space.
Signature and Landmark Aviation
Signature is known around the world for its elite and exceptionally up to date facilities, technology, and staff. With two locations at Vancouver (Signature East and Landmark by Signature they aim to accommodate any guest requests and believe that VIPs deserve attentive personal service. They too have 24/7 customs clearance and a full business centre with printer, covered parking upon request, short and long-term vehicle parking, pet friendly, aircraft cleaning and detailing onsite and access to speedy laundry service. They also have wheelchair accessible lounge rooms, stylish conference rooms, and impressive mountain views. Signature is the ideal fixed based operator for private jet owners who want to be treated with exquisite amenities.
Best Overall – Pearson International Airport (Toronto)
Skyservice offers state of the art facilities, with services and amenities, that has provided them with countless satisfied customers. Although there are four locations, Skyservice offers the most exquisite services at its Toronto location. Skyservice FBO has a beautifully appointed passenger lounge, offers its clients valet car parking, gym/showers, catering, private pilot lounge, and nap rooms. All locations also offer hotel bookings at preferred customer rates, computerized flight planning, secure executive parking, board and conference rooms, and convenient locations near hotels, restaurants, and major highways.
For aircraft they offer almost every below-wing service such as 24/7 aircraft maintenance, aircraft detailing, anti-icing services, and Jet A-1 fuel. They also possess over 160,000 sq. feet of hangar space at the Toronto location. They also offer ground transportation services, including onsite car rental, limousine arrangements through customer service, and courtesy shuttle transfers to area locations.
Honorable Mention – Pearson International Airport (Toronto)
Skycharter had been privately owned and operated for nearly fifty years. Conveniently located at the north end of the airport, Skycharter offers privacy and security to our clients. Skycharter has been endorsed by Professional Pilot Magazine and FBO of choice Elite Traveler Magazine. Skycharter regularly makes the list of best FBOs due to their reputation for anticipating client needs, offering price matching, and discounted hangar storage. With 80,000 feet of heated aircraft space, any size jet can be accommodated.
Skycharter strives to provide private jet fliers in Canada’s business community the opportunity to fly comfortably and with ease. And their concierge staff have even been known to track down hard to obtain local special event tickets. Since opening its doors in 1968, Skycharter has gained many loyal customers, thus earning the reputation of best in class.