Evergreen Apple takes a thoroughly modern approach to FBO services, by Anthony Harrington
Driven in no small part by the global interest in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, the Lagos-based Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN), the country’s first private FBO, has had a very successful year with business aviation flights to and from its FBO increasing by as much as 100% year-on-year. The facility has been operating for almost two years and EAN CEO Segun Demuren has been involved in a whirlwind series of trade exhibitions and tours, publicising the FBO and getting the word out that Lagos now has a thoroughly modern facility with state-of-the-art business practices, a modern lounge and hotel-like crew rest facilities, together with a portfolio of executive jet services that can compete with FBOs anywhere.
Increased traffic movements both within Africa and to and from global destinations have fuelled an ever-increasing demand for premium services and Evergreen Apple offers a full range of handling at its facilities, including flight clearances, VIP facilitation, ground support services and internal and external valeting of aircraft, including daily washing for planes parked on the apron.
In fact in the early days of the FBO, parking for private jets was one of the key basic revenue generating services for Evergreen. “There are a lot of owners in the country and they all require a secure and safe place to park their jets. So parking was where it all start and it is still a major driver for acquiring new business from in-country owners. We are very plugged-in to the buying networks so we know when owners are getting their jets. We write to them and let them know that we have this fantastic area where they can park their jet securely,” he comments. Demuren estimates that there are somewhere between 100 and 120 private jets within more or less convenient reach of the FBO.
From that introduction, Evergreen goes on to make the client aware of its full range of offered services including immigration services and catering as well as ground handling and maintenance, with the latter provided in conjunction with its MRO partner, MCM (Maintenance Centre Malta). The EAN Hanger Jet Centre provides maintenance services for most executive jets and offers troubleshooting and daily inspections, as well as line maintenance and repairs. Taking care of flight permits is another much-prized service, Demuren says.
Around 30-40% of Evergreen’s business comes from the ad hoc transient market provided by visiting jets. These are generally either mid-cabin or large cabin aircraft coming from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US. “Their chief concerns are flight permits that allow them to be here and the ability to park the jet in a secure place – that is absolutely huge for our international clients,” he adds. Evergreen is based right at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (formerly Lagos International Airport), which is only a 25 minute drive from Lagos’s main business centre – though doing the trip downtown during rush hour could turn the commute into an hour long journey!
Nigeria has four international airports and some 22 airports in all, plus a number of airstrips built by either the Nigerian Air Force or the big oil companies, so there is plenty of basic infrastructure in place for the business aviation market to get to grips with. However, Demuren points out that in the oil and gas region the major companies largely use helicopters rather than business jets. Port Harcourt has the Nigerian Air Force base quite close to town as well as the international airport, and it is used from time to time by business jets. However, the real draw is Lagos, with Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwi International Airport in second place. “Lagos probably has about 40-50% of the air traffic in Nigeria, with Abuja having around 30-40% and the remainder spread across the country,” Demuren says.
Demuren is determined to operate the Evergreen FBO according to the best standards observed in the leading FBOs worldwide. For a start, this means that clients are not asked to pay cash, as is endemic across Africa. “Paying in US dollars in cash is still the norm for most of Africa so the fact that we operate transparent invoicing for clients is a real differentiating factor for us. We provide great service for your pilots and when you depart we send you a bill. This is 100% safer for pilots since they do not have to carry significant amounts of cash,” he notes. This inevitably means credit management, but Demuren says that dealing largely with the major operators as regular customers cuts down the risk.
Evergreen currently has around 17 aircraft movements a week, which is brisk for a Nigerian FBO. “The logistics keeps us busy. We’re currently using a third-party provider for refuelling our customers but within six months we plan to take this in-house and will be getting our own fuel trucks,” Demuren remarks. The future for Evergreen Apple looks bright.