Castle & Cooke Aviation operates exclusive FBOs at Van Nuys and Honolulu airports, each delivering an enhanced level of customer service, as President Aviation Operations & Business Development Tony Marlow explains
There is surely no other FBO operator able to claim a history dating to 1864. During the 1860s, Hawaiian businessmen Samuel Northrop Castle and Amos Star Cooke expanded their interests into selling sugar, a venture that inevitably led to an in-house shipping capability. A significant component of Castle and Cooke’s legacy continues as the Dole fruit and vegetable brand, but their names live on in Castle & Cooke Aviation, a private company operating FBOs at Honolulu Airport, Hawaii and Van Nuys Airport, California.
Castle & Cooke entered the private aviation business in 1981, expanding into full-service FBO operations around 15 years ago. Recognised for its service standards, Castle & Cooke Aviation remains staunchly independent, for reasons that President Aviation Operations & Business Development Tony Marlow explains: “Our owner is an independent aviation enthusiast and I share his belief that we can do better on our own, adapting to local markets, pricing, training and even changing uniform as needed. It provides a lot of flexibility and that results in nimbleness to provide what our customers want.”
That nimbleness also ensures resilience and Marlow says: “The last two years, through Covid, have been unlike any others in my career. The most difficult, but also the most satisfying, they required so much adaptation and creativity. Through incredible flexibility we squeaked out a few dollars of profit every month, even during the darkest time. And we never resorted to furloughs or staff reductions, a fact I’m very proud of. An inspiring policy driven from the top of the company, it means we now have very loyal employees as we recover to pre-Covid levels and even higher. We will end up stronger through the adversity and that is inspirational.”
Elegance and excellence
Passengers and crew enjoy exceptional service standards at both Castle & Cooke FBOs, but with subtle differences to suit their locations. Marlow says they have elegance and excellence in common, while delivering a private, discreet service. He continues: “The Van Nuys FBO started as a private terminal and while we are a full-service FBO, we have kept that ‘private’ feel. It offers an exclusive country club-like environment, similar to a Four Seasons experience – we still own a Four Seasons facility. In today’s Covid-restricted environment, this exclusivity and privacy is more important than ever.
“The Honolulu FBO was modelled after what was then our Four Seasons facility on the island of Lanai. It still delivers a high-end experience but, importantly in Honolulu, which is much like an international destination, we strive to assist passengers and crew right from the jet to their ground transportation and on their way to their Hawaiian lodging. Wherever they’ve come from, it was a long way, so we always do our best to expedite their route to relaxation.”
Importantly, Castle & Cooke Aviation’s FBOs take their fuel from Avfuel, also using its branding. For Marlow, the link with the US fuel company makes complete sense. “I have been with a half-dozen or so suppliers over time; all the majors, some come and gone,” he recalls. “The relationship with Avfuel is by far the best I have ever had with a supplier. Responsive, caring, always there when we need help, they are like close family. Trucks come straight from their own facility; they have a wide spectrum of products and marketing support second to none.
“It works because they are really a partner, not a supplier. Their CEO, Craig Sincock, is a remarkable businessperson. I envy the organisation he has built, the loyalty of his team and their willingness to assist us in many different ways. I can’t say enough about Avfuel. We just finished our first five-year term with them and there was never a doubt that renewal was the way to go.”
Sustainability is high on the industry agenda right now and Castle & Cooke has sustainable aviation fuel available – through Avfuel – at its Van Nuys facility. Marlow reports: “Customer use has been relatively low, but is still driven, I believe, by the significant cost difference. As price comes down, utilisation will increase. This is a marathon, not a sprint and we are prepared for the long haul.”
Looking at the bigger picture of company-wide sustainability, he continues: “We’ve installed photovoltaic panels on several of our largest hangars in Van Nuys and our hangar in Honolulu. To the extent possible, we have switched to electric ground support equipment and we have new-generation clean-burning diesel trucks. We have and will continue to support our airport efforts in conjunction with our own goals to be a good neighbour and steward to the environment.”
Considering the airports Castle & Cooke serves, its customers have other choices of FBO at Van Nuys and Honolulu. So why should they and do they remain loyal? “It’s our personalised approach to customer service,” Marlow asserts. “We offer private, discreet and personalised service. We strive to be the best, not necessarily the low-cost leader. I do not pursue market share at the expense of quality, so our customers can expect a higher level [of service].”
It is a policy that has seen the company through, hopefully, the worst of the Covid pandemic. Now the plan is to continue post-pandemic recovery while adapting to the changing needs of the current and next generation of customers. Tony Marlow is typically enthusiastic: “My role at Castle & Cooke has been magnificent and continues to be – I am inspired by the appreciation of a job well done. The future is very bright for us.”