A Better FBO Experience isn’t just the tagline of Dallas Love Field-based Business Jet Center, it is a promise to exceed customer expectations at every interaction. In doing so, it also offers unique services at a first-class facility with a family-run feel, as Partner Mike Wright and Manager of Sales & Marketing Cat Wren explain
Independent FBOs are increasingly rare. Finding one established and still operated by the same family is even less common, and that makes Business Jet Center at Dallas Love Field particularly special. Bob Wright, took ownership of a Falcon 20 in the late 1980s, and a growing passion for aviation launched him into business at Love Field, where he began buying, selling and operating aircraft in 1993 as Business Jet Services.
Twenty-six years later and now working in the aircraft management, charter and maintenance markets as Business Jet Access, the family-owned and operated company remains based at Business Jet Center, operating 14 turbine aircraft under the general management of Bob’s grandson, Chris Wright.
Bob saw the opportunity for a full spectrum of aviation service offerings at Love Field, when and when an FBO facility became available in the mid-1990s, he was immediately interested. His son and Business Jet Center partner, Mike Wright, tells the story: “He understood the need for FBOs to offer better quality services and when the property became available we responded to a public request for proposals, competing with many of the largest FBO chains of the time.
“We won the leasehold with the promise to rehabilitate the dilapidated facility. In 1997 it comprised 13 acres with nine ageing hangars, one of them attached to a small private terminal. Today, Business Jet Center is located on 33 acres with 15 hangars and has a well-known three-story terminal. We are blessed to say 70 turbine aircraft call Business Jet Center home.”
Dallas Love Field sits centrally in the southern-most tract of the Continental US, a strategically important position for business jet traffic, as Cat Wren, Manager of Sales & Marketing at Business Jet Center confirms. “We serve a lot of aircraft, but mostly smaller jets and many of our frequent visitors are from surrounding states or Texas – we see plenty of traffic from Antonio, Austin and Houston. They’re generally making fuel stops or visiting Dallas on business. The Dallas metroplex also offers all types of sporting event, thanks in part to its high-capacity stadiums and arenas, plus we see plenty of big-name concerts too. Recently there’s been an influx of people moving in from California, with an associated rise in large jet numbers, and we also see regular customers from California, Florida and New York.”
Family spirit remains a key ingredient, nurtured through a careful staff selection process. But it’s a two-way process, where the staff also influence the business, as Mike explains: “We look for new employees with a joyful attitude, for people who take pride in serving others. We can train the skills required for the job, but it’s difficult to ingrain a service attitude.
“As a family-owned business, we also have the freedom to make changes that benefit both our customers and employees. Most of the ideas for improvements come from our staff. Their involvement in the day-to-day management of Business Jet Center creates a culture of inclusiveness and makes it a fun place to work. We believe that if our employees routinely have a smile on their faces, then our customers will be happy too.”
Mike Wright chooses ‘joyous’ in his description of the company’s staff and a close look at the FBO reveals it’s not a word he uses lightly. The Business Jet Center offers everything one might expect of a modern FBO, plus a game room, free slushies and ice cream. There’s something very different going on.
Cat Wren clearly possesses the qualities required for a successful Business Jet Center career. She started out servicing aircraft on the ramp and says the Wright family are central to the FBO’s service offering and unique approach to customer satisfaction. “They’re humble people who truly care about their employees.”
“We pride ourselves on delivering a better FBO experience and it starts with our people. From our CFO to line service moving aircraft, to the flight line agents greeting customers, it’s a team effort. Years ago, we began providing complimentary refreshments, cookies, granola bars and fruit, and then we added ice cream. We planned to take it away in the winter, but it became our most popular refreshment, so we now provide it year round! We also have a Very Important Pet – VIP – area with grass and water for our most favourite four-legged passengers.”
Aside from the attractions of free ice cream, Business Jet Center promotes itself as a one-stop shop for crew, passengers and servicing. “Anything a customer needs, between Business Jet Center and Business Jet Access, we can make it happen. Charter, management, maintenance, acquisition, sales, FBO services,” Cat says, “we’ve got it all and, if we don’t, we have preferred vendors for whatever your heart can dream up and can have them onsite with the aircraft in 15 minutes or less.
“Another way we’re different is in our emphasis on creating a smooth experience for passengers and crew, instead of focusing on fee structures. Valet car service is on the house. When a customer needs a GPU it’s complimentary. If they take on fuel, we waive the facility fee and offer all other ancillary ramp services for no charge. We go above and beyond for each customer, and because of that the loyalty of our customer base is incredible.”
Crews travelling through Business Jet Center enjoy ‘snooze rooms’ and bathroom facilities, a flight planning room, the ‘fish room’, so-called for its relaxing atmosphere with dim lighting and fish tanks, recreation areas and, of course, the ever popular game room. Hangar space, which is especially important when bad weather blows in, is also usually available. In fact, with 300,000sqft of hangar and terminal space, Business Jet Center is among Love Field’s major players and Cat says more land has recently been awarded to place as many as seven more 40,000sqft hangars on the Business Jet Center leasehold.
The Wrights and Business Jet Center staff also keenly support the local community. “As long-time Dallas residents, we’ve been fortunate with our success and take pride in giving back to the community through our non-profit company, Business Jet Cares,” Mike says. “We host an annual charity golf tournament that benefits veterans and their families. Then, during Christmas, Business Jet Center and its tenants adopt local families in need, ensuring they receive presents under the tree, along with other essentials. Even more impressive is that all of these philanthropic ideas were created by our employees and their participation each year is incredible,” Mike says. Cat adds: “Our Christmas To Remember programme helps families in need by our employees ‘adopting’ a family and buying them gifts. We’ve even gone out to family homes to do room makeovers where they can’t manage themselves. The owners here allow staff to take time out of their day to day job duties to pay back to the community.
“The non-profit all started in a budget meeting in 2012, where a colleague and I wanted to retool our annual customer and employee Christmas parties. Instead of one big holiday event each year, we started treating them all year long with cookouts, donut breakfasts and food trucks. Not only did it raise our customer engagement by having multiple events, but it also saved us money in our overall budget. It was at that point we decided to take the surplus and increase our involvement in the local community.
“In short, our charity helps ‘kids, pets and vets’ as we like to say. We work closely with veteran charities and to date we’ve donated $215,000, including contributions to Folds of Honor, which contributes scholarships to spouses and children of fallen veterans and Patriot Paws, which raises puppies to provide canine companions to veterans at no cost.”
The Business Jet Center boasts a winning formula for staff and customers, and Mike is quick to note that growth in North Texas, “…has benefitted us and continues to fuel the need for additional hangar space at Business Jet Center.” In July 2019, the Wrights opened their largest hangar/office facility, a new 49,000sqft space that is already fully leased. And that’s already not enough: “We’ve begun designing our next two hangar facilities,” he reveals.
Business Jet Center carries Phillips 66 branding, in a bold move for a fiercely independent FBO. Cat Wren explains the association began some years ago and has endured thanks to the quality of the relationship. “We’re a high-demand FBO. During our peak seasons we’ll bring in as much as six truckloads of fuel per day and Phillips 66 has done well matching that demand,” she says.
“I think people are also attracted to the Phillips 66 brand and its card and reward programmes, and that, combined with our service standards, makes for a tempting proposition.” Business Jet Center was also re-awarded the CAA (Corporate Aircraft Association) contract rebid. Combining the benefits enjoyed by the 91 CAA card holders and its Phillips 66 relationship, Business Jet Center is able to offer just a little more discount to those select customers.