Signature Flight Support is bolstering its already extensive global fixed-based operator (FBO) network with a £26 million ($37 million) upgrade of its facility at London Luton airport and the take-over of RizonJet’s upscale FBO at the UK capital’s dedicated business and general aviation hub, Biggin Hill.

“We plan to be up and running with the rebranded base on 20 June,” says Mark Johnstone, managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa for Signature’s UK parent, BBA Aviation Flight Support. “We are leasing the facility from its Qatari owner [GSSG Holdings] for 10 years.”

Since 2014, Signature has leased a small facility on the other side of the airfield from UK maintenance provider JETS. “We are transitioning [the passenger and aircraft handling across], but will keep the ramp space,” says Johnstone.

This latest move brings Signature’s global FBO network to 199, with 31 in Europe. “Within the region, the UK is our largest market, with 14 FBOs. London is a key destination,” Johnstone says.

Signature has bases at four airports across the UK capital. The decision to further strengthen its offering follows depleting slot provision for business aircraft at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, which has hit business hard. “There has been a 90% fall in general aviation aircraft traffic at Heathrow in the last five years, and the situation is similar at Gatwick. The latter looks likely to impose a slot ban on GA traffic over the coming months too,” Johnstone says.

At Luton, where the company is set to complete a multi-million pound upgrade of its FBO in November, the competition for ramp space also is increasing. “The low-cost carriers are putting a lot of pressure on parking,” says Johnstone. “We won’t have any of those problems at Biggin Hill, as there is plenty of capacity.”

With bases in only nine of the “top 20 European locations for business aircraft traffic”, Johnstone says Signature will continue to eye new ventures. “Switzerland and Russia are of particular interest,” he adds.

Source: Flight International