Canada’s Top Fixed Base Operator survey
Aircrew, executives, passengers and aircraft owners weigh in
September 15, 2023 By Wings Staff
The 2023 Top Fixed Base Operator in Canada Survey conducted by Wings and Helicopters received 1,213 responses, covering more than 50 facilities, in an open voting system through the months of April, May, June and July. Designed to help determine the year’s Top Fixed Base Operator (FBO) in Canada, and across five regions, responses in the annual survey continue to rise mirroring a resurgence in air travel after the pandemic shutdowns. Beyond asking survey participants to name their favourite Canadian FBO, they answered seven other questions to provide client insight into the business and private aviation sector. We also use this open question format to help ensure the survey is being used by individuals often moving through an FBO.
Fast Air Jet Centre based at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International, CYWG, received the most votes across all five Canadian regions to earn its spot as Canada’s Top FBO in 2023. Founded in 1995, the operation, which conveniently sits near the centre of North America, is a perennial national and regional winner in the Top FBO program. Fast Air, which operates more than 30 jet and turboprop aircraft, in late 2022 expanded its network with new charter services out of British Columbia’s Abbotsford International, CYXX, primarily supported by a refurbished King Air and offering more private transborder flights.
Fast Air today operates several divisions, including a key air ambulance entity called Vanguard Air Care based at its Manitoba headquarters. This aviation breadth provides Fast Air with access to 100,000 square feet of hangars, maintenance, and client support resources. It can accommodate a range of aircraft from single-engine types to corporate jets and larger Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Fast Air is a member of the Air Elite Network which is a group of FBOs audited by World Fuel to strict facility and service standards. Among some 100 global member locations, there are nine Canadian FBOs in the Air Elite Network and all are among the 2023 Top FBO winners, including Gateway Aviation based at Windsor International, CYQG, which placed second in all of Canada and first in Ontario.
LUX FBO, headquartered at Montréal Saint-Hubert Longueuil, CYHU, placed third in all of Canada and first in Quebec. In July, LUX was named host facility for the 2024 Canadian Business Aviation Association conference, timing well with the massive CYHU infrastructure project led by Porter Airlines to open a 225,000-square-foot passenger terminal by the end of 2024.
In addition to Fast Air, Gateway and LUX, the other two FBOs to lead five distinct regions includes Skyservice Business Aviation at Vancouver International, CYVR, for Western Canada and Innotech-Execaire Shell Aerocentre at Halifax Stanfield International, CYHZ, for Eastern Canada.
This year’s Rising Star Award, recognizing the largest number of new votes for a single FBO location, was earned by Chartright Air Group’s 34,000-square-foot facility at Lake Simcoe Regional, CYLS, which opened in the summer of 2022.
When asked for what type of travel do you use an FBO (allowing respondents to select more than one category throughout the survey), Business Aviation represented the vast majority of responses at 44.0%, followed by Personal at 33.4% and Aircrew at 33.0%. Respondents were also asked about their destinations. Domestic travel dominated the sector at 72.6%, followed by Transborder at 36.7% and International (non-U.S.) at 21.6%.
Helicopters accounted for 3.2% of all respondents’ travel, while charter (non-pilot) came in at 6.9% of respondents. Looking at the type of respondents to the survey, Business Executives represented the largest number of participants at 29.6% followed by Aircrew at 27.1%, and Pilot-owner at 24.7%. Charter pilots specifically accounted for 19.5% of all respondents.
Survey participants were asked, all things being equal, into which single area would you invest to improve the performance of the aircraft that you own or use? Cabin comfort was the top response at 34.6%, followed by fuel efficiency at 33.9% and speed at 33.0%, again allowing for multiple category responses. The remaining categories, in order of participant importance, included Sustainable Aviation Fuel, Maintenance Availability, On-board Communications and Livery.
Survey participants were asked into which area would you prefer to see your primary FBO invest? The category of Facility Overall came first at 44.2%, following by Customer Service at 21.5% and Maintenance at 21.4%. The remaining categories in order of importance included Aircraft Availability, International Access, Transborder Access and On-board communications.
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