In 2017, Sky Valet, the FBO brand of Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, launched the Sky Valet Connect network, which is expecting to make a significant member announcement at EBACE
Jean-François Guitard, Director General Aviation and Business Development at Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur, has worked at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport for more than three decades, serving in marketing, legal and strategic planning, business development, and, since 2021, business aviation roles. He claims, therefore, to be a general aviation ‘rookie’, although his airport and commercial aviation experience is vast; aviation, he says, is his passion.
Today, Guitard may often be found working from the Nice FBO, which carries the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur Sky Valet brand. “We’ll be celebrating the brand’s tenth anniversary next year,” he notes. “But the company has been involved in general aviation much longer. It took the concession for handling services at Cannes Mandelieu during the late 1960s. The airport handles only business aviation and its main terminal is, in effect, an FBO.
“Ten years ago, we bought Aéroport Golfe de Saint-Tropez, where the major activity is again business and general aviation, and we also provide an FBO. With facilities at Cannes and Saint-Tropez it was time to create a brand – Sky Valet. Later we bought companies in Spain and Portugal, placing them under the same brand. These four locations became the key Sky Valet pillars, with a focus on high-quality service while protecting local values and character.”
Since then, the Sky Valet brand has been applied to FBOs across Europe, always following the same policy of delivering the utmost quality with a local touch. At some FBOs, including those in Spain and Portugal, IS-BAH certification is an additional quality guarantee. Cannes lost its certification during Covid and is working to regain it, probably during 2024. Most Sky Valet facilities are also enrolled in sustainability programmes, aiming for net-zero by 2030.
Sky Valet Connect
Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur subsequently established Sky Valet Connect as a franchise brand, extending the core values of the Cannes and Saint-Tropez, Spanish and Portuguese facilities beyond the airport group. Guitard explains: “We never intended to become a global player, instead focussing on maintaining service quality and helping independent European airports, handlers and aviation service providers achieve it. Sky Valet Connect also helps them gain better exposure for their business.”
Speaking in early April, he noted five franchisees in Bulgaria, four in France and two in Italy, and promised more to come. “At the EBACE event we will name at least four new network members. This year is therefore going to be very important for Sky Valet Connect; we are very happy with its development. The network exposure we provide for our franchisees really begins at the EBACE shows. For smaller, independent companies it is difficult to afford a large enough space at the event to make any real impact. For 2023, we’re providing our franchisees with exposure on a large, well-positioned, high-visibility booth close to the OEMs. This event alone is worth the cost of Sky Valet Connect network membership.
“We also help with marketing, including regular promotional posts on LinkedIn, and gain them further exposure at other events, including the Dubai Airshow and NBAA-BACE. And we have the network’s Private Sky magazine, which targets business aviation crews and passengers with features on network partners, their local areas, lifestyle, and aircraft and systems developments. Finally, we have an annual symposium, where all members gather to share ideas and hear about the latest industry developments.”
While franchisees benefit from network exposure, and help with market surveys and analysis, the Sky Valet Connect brand means their customers are reassured that quality service awaits them. The process of becoming a network member begins with a Sky Valet compliance audit. If necessary, the company offers training to the erstwhile franchisee, usually at Cannes or Saint-Tropez, but Guitard says most candidates already offer impressive levels of service. Franchisees are then subjected to annual audits which, Guitard enthuses, also provides a great opportunity to meet them ‘at home’.
Crews and customers will notice prominent Sky Valet Connect branding at franchised FBOs and on ground vehicles and other items, including drinking glasses and crockery. Guitard continues: “We’re also taking the opportunity to promote luxury brands, including champagne and coffee. It was something we traditionally did ahead of EBACE, but some franchisees wanted to continue it at their FBOs. At Trieste Airport, for example, illy coffee is served. We’ll continue that partnership at EBACE and other FBOs in the network are keen to install illy coffee machines too. Another good example is at Rodez, where the FBO has a partnership providing a branded Mercedes-Benz crew car.”
As already noted, sustainability is an important consideration for Sky Valet and its Sky Valet Connect franchisees. A further relationship with Mercedes-Benz has seen a fleet of electric vans installed in Spain and Portugal, while Cannes and Saint-Tropez use French-built electric vans under Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur’s Airport Carbon Accreditation Programme – all the groups’ airports are at Level 4+ and it was among the first European airport operators to be accredited at Level 1, in 2012.
Sky Valet Connect membership includes the availability of support and additional services from the parent company as franchisees work to achieve their own sustainability targets. “We’ve also helped airports that aren’t members to meet Airport Carbon Accreditation requirements, in the expectation they might join in future,” Guitard says. “And we provide technical services when airports want to refurbish parking lots and terminals.”
The Sky Valet Connect brand emerged in 2017. With Covid all but closing the industry down for 12 or more months since then, Sky Valet Connect has not been on the market long. A customer satisfaction survey is therefore under way, but in the meantime Guitard is happy to report positive feedback from passengers and crew. The survey process is also providing an opportunity to hear customer thoughts on possible new services.
Guitard is determined that the network should continue growing around the premise of delivering quality service and value for money, while allowing its franchisees to retain their regional character. “We don’t want to compete with the big FBO providers. We want to stay European, we want our FBOs to remain independent and we want the network to benefit our franchisees, their customers and Sky Valet,” he says.