Every day, thousands of private jets and props depart and arrive on airports around the world. On most of these airports, we rely on handlers and FBO’s to take care of our customers. We all know that it doesn’t matter how good the flight was if the transportation didn’t show up when we arrive to the airport, the catering wasn’t delivered on time, or we got stuck in security due to missing information.
After some years in business aviation industry I have heard and seen different ways of working when it comes to communicating with FBOs and Handling Agents. I have had the opportunity to see how it works both from the dispatch desk and on the spot flying into these places. Here are some of my best practices.
1) Provide enough flight information
In order for the handlers to do a good job, they need to know some things about you and your flight. Some people prefer calling, but I always recommend sending an Handling Request as well, just to avoid misunderstandings. Honestly, If it’s not an urgent flight or I have some special questions, I handle most of my communication over e-mail. In the end It’s quicker, and I can more easily track the work history.
Make sure to provide:
- Flight Schedule, date and time of arrival and departure
- Airport arriving from and departing to
- Aircraft registration, maximum take-off weight, operator name
- Clear specification of services required.
- Contact details to dispatch or person in charge.
- Crew details
- Amount of passengers (consider when to give passenger names / details).
When it comes to providing passenger names there’s a fine line between keeping confidentiality and providing enough information to the FBO or Handler to do a good job. Think about; Is customs required, what details need to be provided in that case? When the passenger shows up in the FBO, how will he or she let the handler know which flight they are on? Same goes for passenger transport. The last thing you want is one of your passengers boarding the wrong aircraft. You might not believe me when I say that I have met crew that had their passengers departing with another aircraft, not realizing that they where onboard the wrong one before they already where airborne!
2) Be clear about your intentions.
Tell them how long you’re going to stay. If you don’t know, open a discussion with the handler. Then they can plan their parking space accordingly.
3) Get a written confirmation.
In order to be sure that both you and your handling agent are working on the same information, make sure to receive a written confirmation stating at least the time of arrival and departure and that they have understood what services you require. If you don’t receive one, call and ask for it. I good idea might be to send the crew a copy, so they know what info that the handling agent has received. Make have the location of the FBO confirmed and hand over it to the passenger and/or transportation company.
4) Keep them in the loop.
Communication is essential for a good flight coordination. Let the handling agent know if your flight is delayed or departed early. Movement messages are good, but a phone call will just do as well. In that way the handling agent can plan for your arrival, making sure someone is there to meet your crew and passengers when they arrive. Sending movement messages in Europe is good, most of the time you will then receive a movement message back when your aircraft departs.
If the flight is cancelled, don’t forget to tell them about it!
5) Establish relationships.
Remember that these people are there to help you. Give them feedback, telling them not only when something goes wrong, but when something goes well! A handler or FBO is a great resource of local knowledge, value that. After the flight, ask the crew how their experience was and learn what you can do the next time.
6) Store information after the planning is done.
It might be a long time until you fly to the airport the next time. Keeping records of earlier experiences and contact details saves a lot of time when planning a flight to the destination the next time.
Finally I want to thank Henry “Duke” LeDuc – Texas Instruments, Mariejosee Bigras – Skyservice Business Aviation, Inc and Jim Davis – Pentastar Aviation, VanNuys for giving me inspiration to write this post after the S&D conference in San Diego.