Each of the four XLR Jet Centres serves an important UK airport. Distinctive in character and service offering, XLR is especially proud of its support to VIP government and military customers. XLR Director Chris Beer answered EVA’s questions
There are XLR Jet Centres at Birmingham, Bournemouth, Exeter and Liverpool John Lennon Airports. What do they offer?
Birmingham is the largest facility, with a 27,000sqft heated hangar and two-tier Jet Centre featuring passenger lounges and crew facilities, as well as office accommodation and private car parking. Birmingham, Bournemouth and Liverpool all have private security within the Jet Centre, while all four FBOs have a similar look and boutique feel. The one thing they absolutely have in common is our outstanding staff, who believe strongly in excellent customer service.
What facilities do you offer?
All our Jet Centres have extensive passenger lounges with excellent views of the runway, workstations and premium passenger arrival experiences. For these, UK border officers visit passengers in the VIP lounge, enabling checks in private; at Liverpool ours is the only FBO with this facility.
All our FBOs also have crew lounges or spaces dedicated to crew, including quiet rooms for sleeping. Complementary hot and cold soft drinks are always available – and for crew coming off their last sector and heading for the hotel, we are delighted to offer an ice-cold beer.
As a full-service FBO group, our expert teams carry out all the usual under-wing services. Each location welcomes a number of flights from regular customers, although Bournemouth and Birmingham tend to see more US flights and others from outside Europe. In the winter, Exeter sees lots of US visitors enjoying popular field sports, while Liverpool owns the market for football [soccer] flights.
Your offer is based on outstanding customer service and facilities, but is there anything else that sets the XLR experience apart?
Pizza! We began offering pizza to visiting military aircrew at Exeter ten years ago and this has evolved so that all the FBOs have either a pizza oven or a close connection to Domino’s, and we treat predominantly military aircrew to lunch or dinner. During the pandemic, when airport terminals were closed, we extended the offer to all visiting crew.
Sustainable aviation fuel is gradually gaining traction – are you able to offer SAF to your customers?
We aren’t quite there yet, but we are discussing the requirement with several fuel companies across the Jet Centre network. World Fuel Service, which we work very closely with at XLR Birmingham, has several ideas on how we could make SAF work and we are keen to try. Our fuel team is carrying out market research on existing customers to find out their views and ask how much extra they would be prepared to pay to have SAF in their tanks. We’ll look at the results and decide how best to move forward, but we recognise the importance of reducing carbon emissions as much as we can
The XLR Jet Centres are part of a larger company, but they are its only FBOs. How have they survived through the past two years without the support of a major chain?
All four serve key UK cities with an excellent product that meets the needs of the HNWIs in their catchment. I don’t believe our owners want to see the FBOs sold off to a larger chain – they are very happy with how well XLR is doing since the Covid lockdowns ended. Birmingham and Liverpool have done especially well, going above and beyond to win larger customers away from established competitor FBOs by offering better facilities, flexible pricing and an improved customer environment.
The XLR Jet Centres regularly host military and government visitors, but Exeter and Liverpool saw extraordinary traffic during the G7 summit. Can you tell us more?
The team loves looking after all types of business aircraft, from the two SR22s based in Birmingham to the Gulfstreams and Globals we see every day. The Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and British Army all like using XLR and I think our staff consider handling these flights the biggest privilege. Many of our staff are former military personnel and it’s great to give something back when their serving colleagues visit us.
The G7 event last June saw the US Air Force visit Exeter, with four CV-22 Osprey tiltrotors supporting the President of the United States and it was our honour and privilege to handle them and look after their passengers and crew. There was another G7 event in Liverpool during December and recognising our previous performance, the USAF knocked on our door to look after its VIP Boeing 757 [C-32A]; XLR Liverpool also looked after the Australian Government’s Falcon 7X, Luftwaffe Global Express and A319, and Japanese government aircraft.
What’s next for the XLR Jet Centres?
In February we had our seventh consecutive month of growth. XLR went above and beyond to protect staff and customers during the pandemic and we are still having our facilities professionally fogged and cleaned every month, while staff also clean daily, focussing especially on touch points.
I believe the future is very bright, with each FBO location looking forward to key events in 2022. Birmingham, for example, is hosting the Commonwealth Games in July and August, while Exeter will support the return of UK air shows. Thanks to our amazing staff, customers, operators and brokers, we have survived the Covid crisis and we’re ready for the future.