Landmark has been methodically implementing a very impressive acquisitions strategy aimed at building a global FBO network. Its UK acquisition builds on its existing base in Europe at the same time as Landmark works to extend its North American footprint.
Its most recent announcement, at the time of writing, was a definitive agreement to acquire Ross Aviation, which has 20 FBOs in high profile major cities and resort destinations in the United States
Dan Bucaro, President & CEO, points out that the Ross acquisition will increase the size of Landmark’s footprint to 60 locations in the US and 76 globally. Commenting on the three new UK FBOs, Bucaro said: “The acquisition of RSS Jet Centre is a great deal for Landmark. These three FBOs are very important to our network and will play a significant role in helping us to build our relationship with our global client base.”
He pointed out that the FBOs are also a great fit with Landmark’s Paris-Le Bourget FBO, which the company has been running for the last eight years, and with its FBO in Nice, which it acquired some seven years ago.
“We have always taken the view that while we are a North American company, our customers are global and fly globally. So we need a strong network of FBOs, giving us a presence at the strategic locations that our clients want to reach,” he says.
While Landmark has been acquiring FBOs at a fairly brisk pace it has so far shown no interest in building a portfolio in emerging markets. “What is important to us is to stay focused on major markets and not get diverted,” Bucaro told EVA. “The aim is not to be in every city in every country, but to be in the strategic locations, the major markets that service our customers for the majority of their journeys,” he comments. Potential acquisitions that meet this criteria will continue to be of interest to Landmark.
The sheer pace of Landmark’s acquisition strategy would generate chaos in many organisations. However, Bucaro points out that Landmark is extremely proficient when it comes to bedding down acquisitions and is well practised in adding recently acquired FBOs to the Landmark family of FBOs. “We have a dedicated acquisitions team who know exactly how to transform a newly acquired FBO into a Landmark FBO,” he comments.
“We work hard to make sure that we are competitive, and that our services and our facilities are consistent. We want customers to feel like they are getting the same high quality, Landmark-branded service in every one of our locations, irrespective of geographic region,” he adds. Consistency and a coherent, standardised look and feel to every Landmark FBO, along with the highest standards of customer service, helps to keep customers comfortable, Bucaro notes.
“Everything about our business is customer and safety driven. We train our staff and motivate them to do the best they can possibly do in each and every one of our locations, be it in Luton, Paris or Cedar Rapids,” he comments.
The acquisitions team has a well worked out set of procedures and an established training regime that it applies to a newly acquired FBO in order to bring the staff up to speed with the Landmark way of doing things. “Many of the FBOs we acquire already have an extremely strong customer service offering, but we always come in with a full complement of people to train everyone, from the ramp-side to the curb-side,” Bucaro adds.
He points out that Landmark’s procedures cover every aspect of an FBO’s operations. “We have all our staff trained to do things the way we want and the way our customers have come to expect,” he explains.
With every incoming aircraft the FBO staff do all the necessary planning work ahead of its arrival, determining what needs to be done. “Does it need fuel? Is it going to be parked with Landmark overnight or longer? Does it need hangar space? What are the catering requirements? All the details have to be thought about in advance,” he comments.
Any organisation running a global FBO business is exposed to the vicissitudes of the business aviation sector. Aircraft movements are the life blood of any FBO operation and business aviation is highly dependent on the state of the economy. According to Bucaro, the last quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 have seen Landmark FBOs reporting a steady flow of aircraft movements, which is a considerable improvement on the business climate for the six months prior to that.
“The first half of 2013 was pretty choppy, so it is very pleasing to see the use of business jets picking up again. We have to deal with a degree of seasonality, of course, but we offset this by having bases in the north and in the south. A wide geographic spread enables you to offset quiet times in one location with busier times in another,” he notes.
Chad Farischon, Landmark’s regional vice president, and currently overseeing the UK operations, says that while all FBOs, by the nature of their business, have similar demands to meet, Landmark sets out to differentiate itself both on the quality of customer service it provides and on safety. “The whole aim is to take care of the passengers and make sure that they are on their way as expeditiously as possible. We take care of the crew and any aircraft requirements and basically look to handle the whole process smoothly and efficiently,” he says.
“Our staff in Luton, Manchester and Glasgow Prestwick go to tremendous lengths to ensure that the whole operation runs seamlessly,” he adds. Farischon points out that Landmark has its own fuel services capabilities at Luton, with its own fuel trucks and fuelling staff. “The fuel suppliers are Shell, BP and World Fuels,” he comments.
While there is a great deal that is within the control of any well run FBO, there are unpredictable elements, such as weather and a sudden bunching in arrivals, for example, that add challenges to the smooth running of the operation. “The key to delivering a high quality of service when conditions get difficult is constant communication between the crew, dispatchers and trip planners. But this goes hand in hand with all the other FBO services. We always strive to get everything operating seamlessly,” he comments.
The two fundamentals keeping a network of FBOs operating smoothly, with staff consistently delivering their A-game, is training and resources. “You need recurrent training at all locations and you need the tools to perform all the functions that are required on the ramp, and to enable you to communicate effectively. Training, an absolute focus on safety, communication and organisation are at the heart of what we do to deliver the service our customers expect,” he concludes.