Air BP has been growing its global business aviation team as it continues to strengthen its focus on serving the business aviation community. Of particular relevance to this MEBA edition, as Air BP Global General Aviation Manager Miguel Moreno notes, the company has been putting considerable resources into developing its presence in the Middle East.
“We now have a new General Aviation manager in the Middle East and we are increasing our account management capabilities there. We have hired a new account manager, who started a couple of months ago, and our Dubai office now provides 24×7 support globally to any customer who has an out of hours query or request,” Moreno explains.
The staff work in shifts of four to provide round the clock coverage. Dubai was chosen, Moreno says, because of its great business atmosphere and its central location. “The staff in Dubai get calls from customers around the world looking for directions on where their nearest BP refuelling location is. What we are finding is that customers are really starting to use this team and it is adding value to our entire operation,” he comments.
The Middle East has been a very interesting market for Air BP for some time and is now viewed as a critically important market. “The region is growing and aircraft movements across the region are growing as well. Of course, as a fuel provider, the fact that the Sheiks and the VVIPs, plus the Royal Families in the region use very large aircraft is great for us. We have to ensure that we have very specific services at airports to cater for VVIP customers when they travel outside the region. We have a dedicated ramp with its own services at Gatwick, for example, with specific business aviation refuelling capabilities and facilities, so VVIP travellers can have their jets refuelled off the main ramp and far faster than would otherwise be the case. This is very well appreciated by our VIP business aviation customers,” Moreno says. This model will be extended to other major airports and hubs, over time.
“We have a specific technical offering for airports and FBOs, called OMEGA, which sets out the safety processes and standards that we operate to, and enables them to feel confident that we can support their operations with world class safety conscious procedures,” Moreno says. At Heli Dubai Festival City, for example, Air BP has put in place a very carefully constructed set of installations and procedures to make fuel delivery adhere to the highest standards from a Health & Safety standpoint.
Relationships with FBOs around the world are, of course, critical. “We have many partner deals with a whole range of FBOs, where we try to combine our efforts with those of the FBO to maximise the service to the business aviation customer. In these instances, we would look to the refuelling of the aircraft while the FBO provides a range of other services. We are constantly looking to develop these relationships with additional FBOs. Our relationship with Gama in Sharja (see the interview with Richard Lineveldt, general manager of Gama Aviation, Sharja elsewhere in this issue) is a great example of this kind of partnering deal and ensures that customers have their aircraft refuelled as rapidly as possible and within the agreed service levels and time frames,” Moreno says.
To assist pilots and operators, Air BP has its own fuel card, known as the Sterling Card. “This is a part of our business that we are really pushing hard and we have dedicated teams within Air BP working on developing this offering,” Moreno notes. In the Middle East, most of Air BP’s customers use the Sterling Card, since it means that they do not have to have pre-agreed fuel releases with Air BP. They can simply arrive at the airport of their choice and use the card to gain ready access to Air BP’s refuelling services. Along with the card, Air BP offers a loyalty cash-back service. “What this means, as with all cash-back services is that when customers use the card in airports that we have fuel services, they get a percentage of the fuel costs refunded to their card as cash back, and this is very well appreciated,” he comments.
In order to help customers keep track of their fuel costs as the aircraft flies between regions or continents, Air BP has a software tool called eNabler that allows the customer to log in to their account at Air BP’s site over the Internet and check all the deliveries made to their aircraft. They can view all the fuel invoices online, along with the prices at each airport. Flight departments and operators with multiple aircraft who are volume buyers of fuel, and who can forecast roughly what their fuel usage over a period of time is likely to be can contract directly with Air BP and agree a bespoke set of prices that reflect the fact that they are bringing volume business to Air BP. The agreement reached would specify the service level agreements, in terms of which Air BP might, for example, agree a half hour delivery window at a particular airport, or the agreement might be to refuel the customer’s jet within one hour of it arriving on the ramp. “When we have that kind of service level agreement with a customer for a specific airport, we will put the resources in place at that airport to make it happen. For their part, the customer will be told how we intend to resource the contract and ensure that we are in a position to meet the service levels agreed in the contract,” Moreno explains.
Turning to the state of play in Europe, Moreno says that there are clear signs now that the business aviation market is recovering. “The market has been difficult since the 2008 crash, but we are happy to see customers looking more optimistic. We are very pleased, as Air BP, that we have managed to grow the business and extend our network through the difficult years. Recently, for example, we have added fuel operations in the South of France, at Cannes and Biarritz and a number of other new airports. It is very positive to see that our efforts are now bearing fruit and that customers are appreciative of the service levels that we can offer them,” he concludes.