Since the last interview a lot has changed. Or has it? EVA thought it was time to return to see if McGreal’s predictions for the business have been realised.
Now Chief Executive of Rizon Jet UK, it’s clear something has gone right for McGreal and for Rizon Jet UK. The business is doing well and in its first two years, won critical acclaim scooping the industry’s top two awards of best FBO & Handling Agent in EMEA & Russia, 2012 and 2013. But there has been a lot of structural change too.
The Doha business closure was timed to take effect as the Qatari capital’s new international airport opened, and Rizon Jet’s operation was effectively closed to traffic. With the Doha operation concluded, the UK business could accelerate programs to grow independently into 2014 and beyond. Allan McGreal seized his chance to restructure the business accordingly.
During its three years from a ground up start, the UK business has grown consistently month on month from its opening in May 2011 to around a total of 5000 movements, nearly 3 million litres of fuel sold and has hosted almost 10,000 passengers. This impressive growth coupled with its industry accolades has set a precedent for the next generation of FBOs.
So what of the bold claims made in 2011?
A cornerstone of McGreal’s strategy has been the diversity of services on offer to passengers once inside the facilities. The resulting improved customer experience is designed to increase passengers’ productive dwell time as they pass through the FBO. An informal tagline for Rizon Jet UK is a play on the question ‘how long does it take to get to the City of London from here?’ Instead the company poses a question which alludes to its own attractions: ‘how long does it take for the City to get here; Rizon Jet London Biggin Hill?’ The answer is clear, with Mayfair a mere 12 miles away, McGreal has made sure it takes less than 10 minutes by helicopter transfer from Battersea, and a tested average of 55 minutes from Mayfair using Rizon Jet’s own affiliated chauffeur service.
The increase in dwell time by departing and arriving passengers is impressive. Compared to the industry standard of less than 5 minutes, at Rizon Jet UK passengers spend an average of nearly 28 minutes in the FBO. This claim does not point to delays to passengers, but rather the delivery of another valued level of service not ordinarily available in lesser facilities: one of productive convenience and luxury, which when added to the cabin experience can be considered another reward for passengers choosing business aviation services. McGreal argues that the service sector of the business cannot afford to be passive and simply ignore the needs of passengers and operators by not contributing to the flying experience. Adopting the old adage that in business aviation speed is everything simply won’t do.
While time has always been an important aspect of business aviation services, now it is value for money and the creation of a value added, wholly productive experience which is the key to success for the service sector responsible for getting crew and passengers to and from the aircraft. McGreal believes this change in focus has come from the influence of new communications technology and its capacity to change time and place. He explains:
“Today, passengers and operators are faced with situations where a flight plan can be relevant and manageable on take-off only to be rendered void at wheels up. An FBO incapable of recognising this and still stuck with the concept of planning to move a client from aircraft directly to a car, and away from a dedicated resource from where an alternate plan can be formulated or executed, is not only misunderstanding the concept of customer service but is failing to appreciate the role a modern, competent and fully resourced FBO can assume in the cycle of events that make up a movement between airports.”
Technology has changed the environment almost overnight. The tagline that the City can come to the FBO is today a reality for Rizon Jet. Equipped with all of the business tools necessary to deliver essential FBO services, its London Biggin Hill FBO can easily accommodate the hosting of major corporate M&A teams, conferencing, private meetings and major product launches, together with a host of aircraft broker and sales platforms available to showcase aircraft and product. All are available to the passenger, operator, owner or broker. There is no longer a need to abandon the destination or departing FBO for lesser quality venues, products or services in the nearest metropolis – because by conducting the business at the FBO of choice, time is added back by others having to travel to the FBO rather than the client travelling further, by going into the City to conduct business and then to return.
For private clients and their families, McGreal further argues that the space, climate and services available at Rizon Jet UK allow the family travelling together to make use of all the facilities that a modern FBO can offer, including restaurant food and entertainment. Furthermore, it can happily accommodate those who wish to travel with the flying party up to departure or perhaps meet them on arrival, so they can enjoy more precious time together.
McGreal’s philosophy of giving more to the business aviation customer of today adds to the already persuasive arguments about why flying by business aircraft is one of the most discerning, rewarding, productive and cost effective choices the modern traveller can make. He is adamant that the service sector has got to come out of the shadows of the OEM’s impressive investment strategies in new aircraft. It must begin a process of FBO investment that matches the quality of the inflight experience, which raises FBO standards. Then there will be nowhere for the ill equipped and latent service providers to hide. Their poor service offerings continue to sabotage any progress made in convincing owners that the business aviation service offering is significantly better than the premium product offered by the scheduled carriers. The ‘below par’ providers must be replaced by better ones, with improving capability thereby increasing competition and creating a successful and enriched experience for the customer.
It’s clear that much of this philosophy is embedded within the Rizon Jet product. Its undeniable success, despite all of the economic pressures on the new start-up and the fact that no recognisable brand was available to boost its entry into the market, defies all the odds.
McGreal accounts for this success in three ways. Firstly, the investor’s commitment in what is arguably the best integrated Fixed Base Operation and Maintenance facility in the EMEA regions. Secondly, the team of people recruited to populate and run this extraordinary facility. Its success is a testament to their diversity, experience, qualifications and dedication to customer service; all of which is recognised by industry awards and accreditation. And thirdly, perhaps more controversially, McGreal regards the ambition of the business and its investor to create an integrated full service facility without comparison, by disregarding the service standards and expectations of others to build a ‘Game Changer’ installation. This he regards as the most important contributor to its success.
Two significant points from that 2011 interview remain. In the original interview McGreal was emphatic about the benefits of a joint strategy and of not acting in isolation. Given the Doha business is no longer open, Rizon Jet UK is effectively now an independent business. How does he square this one?
He returns that point straight back of course; nothing has changed. Despite the loss of the Doha arm of the business, it has not changed his belief that a partner or joint venture FBO/MRO will bring depth, strength and diversity to the work done by Rizon Jet UK. This would only profit the organisation and its clients, by having a strategy that looks beyond the horizon for support and partnership, underpinning the business and ensuring that its culture is both shared and enjoyed. He remains determined not to squander the success and work done by Rizon Jet UK and is alive to prospects that want to inherit and exploit this.
The second and final point yet to be answered; what of that ‘empty page’ he mentioned from which the new business in 2011 was going to start, did what was written eventually get delivered?
McGreal is circumspect, the answer comes in two parts; first there is disappointment and a genuine sadness that the Doha-based business has not enjoyed the success of its UK sibling. For a number of reasons this was not to be, but from this, Rizon Jet UK has been able to establish a greater permanence. Secondly, there is elation that everything such an empty page might have had written upon it, has come true. He points to the impressive growth of the business, the faithful and hugely supportive customer base which has given the business such a consistent and reliable foundation, the industry recognition from its awards, the determination to establish new standards of service, the ‘Game Changer’ ethos so enjoyed by its customers and staff, and most important of all, to return to an inspired investor the success he so rightly deserves for his support of such a key change to the market overall.
So where to now?
2014 started with a bang! The MRO with its impressive Line & Base capabilities across much of the Bombardier range, all series of Hawker aircraft and a select few from Citation 550 to TBM has become his latest focus for growth. McGreal has a huge appetite to develop this treasured capability to fully exploit the magnificent hangar and talented team and has already set the bar high for delivery. New relationships here are as valid as they might be for the FBO, so there will be no stone left unturned in the search for the best possible outcome for the capability so hard won.
A new management team is now in place, the responsibilities are wide so as to exploit every aspect of the £28 million facility, from FBO and MRO services right through to the customer services business which encompasses events management, conferencing and product launch through to a new restaurant and supercar sales arm.
There really is no limit to Rizon Jet’s sky.