Jet Aviation, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, is looking to the future with its transformation programme named “One Jet”. Rob Smith, Jet Aviation Group President, speaks about the company’s vision in an interview with Arabian Knight
When you reach one milestone, the path to another opens up and the journey continues. This is true
of individuals and companies that aim to reach greater heights.
Jet Aviation, a General Dynamics company and a leader in aircraft maintenance, completions and refurbishment, fixed base operation (FBO) and fuel services, aircraft management, and charter businesses, is one such company that celebrated its
50th anniversary last year and begins a new era of consolidation and growth this year, aspiring to further broaden its business and footprint.
The company prides itself in its service excellence and has launched a transformation programme called “One Jet” with a view to ensuring that clients consistently receive the same personal and premium service no matter which Jet Aviation location they visit.
“It was initiated in direct response to feedback received in customer surveys, and it focuses on globally aligning our systems, processes and service standards across our sites and regions – but it’s also about improving employee engagement, accountability and responsiveness,” says Rob Smith, Jet Aviation Group President, in an exclusive interview with Arabian Knight.
Jet Aviation was originally founded in November 1967 as a small maintenance service company to service four Learjets based in Basel, Switzerland. Since then, it has grown to become a leading, full-service global business aviation service provider.
The company now has more than 4,000 employees in 30 locations throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, North America and the Caribbean.
“We believe Jet Aviation developed its reputation for service excellence by remaining customer-focused and steadfastly putting the customer’s needs first. We earned it day-by-day, customer by customer. Similarly, we expanded our service and network capabilities over the course of 50 years, building upon our experience and expertise, which customers have learned over time that they can trust and rely upon,” says Smith, giving some insight into Jet Aviation’s success story.
“Business aviation is a fascinating, dynamic industry at the forefront of technology. To remain a leader in this fast-paced industry, we are fully committed to investing in the latest technologies that support the highest quality and safety standards,” he adds.
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW:
What are the core areas of your business and how do they complement each other?
Jet Aviation’s core service offerings include maintenance, completions and refurbishment, FBO and fuel services, aircraft management, charter and staffing. Our global managed fleet comprises approximately 300 aircraft.
We truly offer aircraft owners and operators a one-stop solution for their business aviation needs, which represents a major benefit to international travellers in terms of service, and bottom line. Through our global buying power, we negotiate substantial reductions in fuel and insurance costs, which we happily pass on to our customers to ensure comprehensive services – at great value.
How challenging is it to keep track of all your divisions? How big is the team?
Geographically, our global operations are managed as two regions – the Americas; and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Asia. From a service perspective, we have an integrated “hub and spoke” business service model. We operate major maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hubs in Basel; Dubai, UAE; and Singapore, which are supported by other global maintenance facilities to meet regional demands. We do refurbishments, modifications and upgrades (RMUs) from our facilities in Basel, Geneva (Switzerland) and Singapore, and we operate a world-renowned Completions Center in Basel with full in-house capabilities. We also operate more than 20 FBOs around the world and manage a global fleet of over 300 aircraft.
To ensure consistent global standards and processes across our sites and portfolio of services, particularly as we continue to grow, we started our ongoing “One Jet” transformation programme last year.
Over the past nine years, Jet Aviation has been part of General Dynamics. How has the acquisition enhanced its business?
When customers and partners come to us, they are looking for a long-term relationship. As part of the General Dynamics (GD) group, we have much more financial security and stability, which our customers greatly appreciate. With GD’s backing, we have significantly expanded our network over the past decade, while also investing in our existing facilities.
As a key player in the business aviation market, what are the major challenges at the moment?
Although the global economy is relatively strong, broader geopolitical concerns have made the aviation market a bit cautious. But where there are risks in certain sectors, we see opportunities in many others.
How is the demand growth in the business aviation sector?
Demand is generally steady across our global FBO network and we have seen a general increase in the volume of heavy maintenance projects for all aircraft types. As aircraft mature, we are also seeing an increase in demand for
local, more accessible services, particularly in Asia. We expect to continue seeing strong demand for RMUs and NextGen upgrades. In the US, we have also seen some growth in our flight services business.
Jet Aviation has quite an interesting history in the Middle East with its Saudi FBO. Please throw some light on your operations in the region.
Jet Aviation, in local partnership, was the first company to set up a FBO in Saudi Arabia when we established our Jeddah FBO (Jet Aviation Saudi Arabia) in 1979. Our MRO and Completions Center in Basel supported a number of aircraft from the region at that time, so we were already a highly regarded brand in Saudi Arabia, which helped a great deal. Just two years later, we opened a second FBO in Saudi Arabia at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, which has since been joined by one in Madinah in 2012.
The FBO facilities in Jeddah, Riyadh and Madinah offer full ground handling services, including passenger handling, immigration and customs clearance, transportation, hotel and catering coordination, aircraft refuelling, cleaning and turnaround assistance. In addition, our Jeddah and Riyadh FBOs hold Saudi Arabian GACA-145, FAA-145 and IS-BAH approvals, offering ground handling services, line maintenance and aircraft-on-ground (AOG) services to private, business and military operators.
Our MRO and FBO facility in Dubai was opened in May 2005, as a joint venture with the Al Mulla Business Group and has won numerous awards for its outstanding services. Jet Aviation has handled more than 25,000 aircraft in Dubai and was voted Best FBO in the Middle East & Africa by the Professional Pilot magazine for the seventh time last year. Our MRO team is well known in the region for its NDT (non-destructive testing) services, the rapid-response AOG team and its line maintenance support at nearby international airports including Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
At the 2017 Dubai Airshow, we also celebrated the opening of our new FBO facility in the VIP Terminal at Dubai South, reinforcing our commitment to Dubai and the region one step further.
What are your expansion plans in the Middle East and other areas?
Jet Aviation is fully committed to meeting the needs of our customers as close to demand as possible. We continue to look for further opportunities to broaden our range of services and footprint to ensure we remain the customer’s partner of choice.
What are the key elements of the ‘One Jet’ plan and how will it impact the business?
Our “One Jet” programme was designed and launched in our 50th anniversary year as part of a renewed commitment to our customers with a view to the future. It is an investment on our part with the ultimate priority of ensuring customers consistently receive the same personal and premium service, no matter which Jet Aviation location they visit. It was initiated in direct response to feedback received in customer surveys, and it focuses on globally aligning our systems, processes and service standards across our sites and regions – but it’s also about improving employee engagement, accountability and responsiveness.
While ongoing, we just implemented a new customer relations management (CRM) tool to help ensure timely, relevant and consistent communications. We have also restructured our sales team to provide key account representatives. I expect these projects and others in the future to make Jet Aviation an easier company to do business with.
You must have come across some unique demands from clients. Can you give us some insight into these?
Our customers’ needs mean we very often have to be inventive. For example, one customer wanted an original artwork installed in his aircraft. In order to get the piece certified for flight, we asked the artist for samples of all materials used in the artwork (i.e., paint sample, canvas) and then tested these samples for flammability etc.
What are some of the challenging outfitting services that Jet Aviation has recently completed/is handling at the moment?
We recently redelivered an aircraft with dual European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification on redelivery, something we had never done before and which we did entirely in-house in order to relieve the customer of this requirement.
At the moment, we are working on two Boeing 777s and an A330, which demonstrates our ability and capacity to work simultaneously on several large, complex aircraft while maintaining a personalised level of care and security for our customers.
The increased focus on ‘residential’ style design also presents challenges, such as concealing plinths to give the impression of free-standing furniture, panelling/beading on walls to add elegant interior design touches, custom-built window treatments and light fixtures to mimic private homes. We have all of these capabilities in-house through our Completions and RMU design teams.
What’s your vision for the company as it moves into the next 50 years?
With a view to the future, we look forward to building upon the traditions of quality, service and continuous improvement that make Jet such a great company. As we continue to grow and expand our capabilities, we will strive to ensure our customers recognise the strength and consistency of our standards, culture and service philosophy no matter where we are.
We will continue to implement our “One Jet” transformation to further advance our customer service. In parallel to our transformation programme, we are continuing to invest in expanding our current facilities as well as adding to our portfolio. In the US last year, we announced new FBO locations in Washington Dulles and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as a new FBO and hangar at our Boston/Bedford site. In EMEA and Asia, we recently opened our Dubai South FBO and our new hangar in Singapore went operational. Later this year, we will be completing our second wide-body hangar in Basel, among other projects in the works throughout the world.
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