General Aviation

Pandemic Covid-19 FBO “Diaries” – Vol 1

By September 22, 2020No Comments

“Have a good day” is now “ . . . . “

These are interesting times! If that’s not the understatement of the year, of this new decade, of perhaps the last 100 years I’m not sure what is. What was a normal life for the entire planet completely changed as we all know at the beginning of our new year 2020, a new decade and a year that everyone hoped would be positive, productive, fruitful! And then just as we started to recover from the joyous holiday season we began to hear little murmurs about a troubling virus in China. Unfortunately the early warnings were ignored by our government which was followed by misstep after misstep after misstep. I don’t intend for this to be a political statement, it’s just the truth. Facts are facts, the truth speaks for itself.

And while we can debate, disagree, and hypothesize about what would’ve happened “if”, it seems to me the most prudent course of action for all of us as individuals, as families, as a nation and as FBO owners and operators, is put our collective intelligence to work and figure out the best way, the safest way, to navigate and move forward during these challenging and for some catastrophic times.

We’ve been speaking to our FBO clients and friends for months. We’ve asked how they are doing, what are they doing to cope, what are they doing to bring their business back, are they surviving, what best practices have they put into place, in short how are things going

For the most part the answers are a mixture of what you might expect and then from some, surprising!

It’s no secret that the general aviation industry of which we are a part of took a big hit in flying the activity in the month of April. For most it was a precipitous drop in fuel sale volume. One of the largest chains confided in me that at some locations fuel sales were down 85%. As a chain over multiple locations, fuel sales were down an average of 50% during that month.

The good news is that the fuel sales seem to rebound beginning in May. These same FBO’s, and the chains, are reporting frankly some surprising rebounds in fuel sales. And that certainly is good news, especially as government assistance programs, the Cares Act, the PPP, assistance programs like these. But now those plans are running out and there is extreme uncertainty as of the date I’m writing this, September 15, 2020, that there will be a Cares Act II or the like.

While we can only empathize and feel badly for our fellow entrepreneurs who own restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, not to mention commercial aviation, the FBO industry, general aviation, is for lack of a better word “blessed” that our business is returning in surprising numbers compared to our unfortunately other entrepreneurs.

So what are the “successful” FBO’s doing today to manage this crisis. Most have taken a hard look at their operations, some downsizing has occurred, job assignments have been merged and shared, some hours have been reduced, and in a few cases some voluntary and involuntary salary reductions have had to be put in place. Once again FBO’s have become more “lean and mean” in their operations, much more effective and efficient. And with that, there is been, at least to me, a surprising resurgence in private aircraft travel.

Many have pointed out to me that that’s not surprising at all. We’ve all known forever that general aviation, private aviation for individuals and businesses, plays an important role in business and personal productivity and convenience. Now with the Covid-19 pandemic, the safest air travel method in the world is general aviation, private aircraft ownership and travel. This many have noted has no doubt spurred the return to almost normal levels of flight activity at many FBO’s and airports.

FBO’s have responded with enhanced cleaning, face mask requirements for all, plastic barriers for distancing, and social distancing protocols. In the results are not surprising. “Safe” pandemic travel is absolutely possible due to the proactive actions being taken by most FBO’s.

So if you want to know how to succeed during these pandemic times, it’s doing the things we all know should be done, face masks, enhance cleaning, social distancing protocols, etc. and your customers will feel safe returning to your FBO in their aircraft!

In place of “have a good day” which used to be the norm, we now say “be safe”!

FBO Advisors, LLC

Serving the FBO industry for more than 45 years

Please feel free to direct comments to us on our views and opinions cited . . .