Biggin Hill rewards Jet Aviation

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Swiss business aviation services provider sees handling figures rise after taking over FBO at UK airport

Swiss business aviation services firm Jet Aviation claims its strategic move to open a fixed-base operation (FBO) at Biggin Hill airport near London has paid dividends, with handling figures almost doubling in the first half of 2005.

Jet Aviation took over the FBO in May 2002 in a bid to compete with rivals at Farnborough, London City and Luton airports. Biggin Hill is 20km (12 miles) from central London – closer than Farnborough and Luton – but suffers curfews, noise restraints and high fuel prices. Jet Aviation handled 510 flights in the first six months of this year, a 43% rise on 350 flights for the same period last year. In the whole of 2004, the FBO recorded 630 handlings, up from 400 in 2003 and 200 in 2002. Stephan Koss, general manager of Jet Aviation’s London Biggin Hill facility, says the rise underpins the company’s long-term growth projections.

“Jet Aviation is well-known with facilities in the USA, the Middle East and the rest of Europe, so people come here for the same level of service,” he says. The 5,190m2 (55,830ft2) facility also offers maintenance, refurbishment and exterior painting services.

Koss says the 1,800m (5,900ft) runway is attractive to operators of transatlantic-class business aircraft, but the restricted hours of operation – 07:30-21:00 on weekdays – curb some potential customers’ enthusiasm. “We hope there will be a decision by [local government] to extend the hours, to make the airport more attractive,” says Koss.

Koss also hopes a deal with fuel supplier BP will boost demand and reduce the price differential with other London airfields. “The deal with BP helped the fuel situation as it is now comfortable for customers to refuel at our FBO; it’s a service-related issue,” says Koss.

JUSTIN WASTNAGE/LONDON