Farnborough Airport – Taking Off in Style

Farnborough Airport, Europe’s number one business aviation airport, has maintained its level of excellence while setting new standards for environmental performance.

Farnborough Airport, set up as the UK’s first airfield in aviation history and home to the country’s first powered flight in 1908, remains an airport unique of its kind. It was built to service and support business aviation, and that remains its core business today.

“Farnborough is the only dedicated business aviation airport in the UK, providing premium air travel connectivity to London and the south of England,” explains the airport’s CEO Simon Geere.

He points out that Farnborough Airport owns and operates both airport and Fixed Base Operator (FBO) facilities, making its integrated operations unique to the market. “The airport’s iconic award-winning architecture, as well as our exceptional level of customer service are also factors that make us special. Farnborough Airport has the look and feel of a premium product and experience. And that is exactly what the customers get.”

Net-Zero Roadmap

Farnborough has collected many awards for its exceptional customer service and operational excellence, but the airport can claim leadership on yet another front: it is setting the standard for sustainability within its sector.

Farnborough Airport was the first business aviation airport in the world to be certified as carbon neutral in 2018, well ahead of its competitors. And just a few weeks ago, the management announced some of the industry’s most ambitious net-zero targets to reduce the airport’s controllable emissions by over 90% by 2030. “These are very ambitious targets not just within business aviation, but in the broader aviation industry,” Mr Geere points out.

“When it comes to supporting the decarbonisation of the aviation industry, we at Farnborough Airport want to lead the way. We want our customers to increasingly choose Farnborough Airport because of our sustainability credentials, alongside our market-leading state-of-the-art facilities and our exceptional levels of customer care.”

To this end, the airport is going to invest in replacing its heating systems and electrifying its ground vehicles, amongst a range of other environment-related initiatives. Farnborough also hopes to reduce emissions from aircraft and has decided to promote Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), temporarily price matching it with that of Jet Fuel in order to spotlight its commercial importance.

“Sustainability really has an impact on absolutely everything we do and is fundamental to our future success. And that’s why it’s one of our core strategic focuses. And ultimately, it’s going to be our licence to grow,” affirms Simon Geere.

Employer of Choice

Farnborough has remained more or less unscathed even during the challenging and changing circumstances of the last few years – an achievement which can be attributed, to a great extent, to the human factor.

“Without question, people are our most important asset, and engaging with our staff has been one of our priorities,” affirms Simon Geere. “A telling aspect of how we treat our employees was seen during the pandemic. We ensured that all our staff had the support they needed, and we didn’t make one redundancy.”

“Unlike commercial passenger airports, especially in the UK, we retained all our employees; in fact, we have increased our headcount. As a result, Farnborough has remained better resourced than the commercial passenger sector in the wake of the pandemic, fully able to meet the increasing demand levels.”

He admits, though, that as commercial passenger airports are now starting to ramp up their own operations, the management has to work particularly hard to retain and motivate employees. To this end, new measures and incentives have been introduced.

“We want to be an employer of choice. We expect to achieve record numbers this year and anticipate growth next year. We need to make sure we’ve got the resources to continue to deliver a premium product.”

The New Traveller

Interestingly, in the post-pandemic environment, demand for that premium product has been increasing, he claims, pointing out that a new type of traveller is emerging – one that has come to value, amidst the chaos of commercial passenger airports, the advantages of business travel.

“These passengers are becoming aware of the key strengths of business aviation, and it is not just about the luxury – they appreciate the connectivity and convenience – flying where they want to, without the queues and the hassles of commercial passenger airports. Many of our customers have complex travel itineraries that simply couldn’t be accomplished using scheduled airlines.”

“Finally, they value the assurance, an increasingly important attribute – you’re unlikely to be delayed, your flight won’t get cancelled and you’re not going to be exposed to the crowds and masses of people as you go through the process. Connectivity, convenience and assurance are the three main reasons why we are seeing increased demand, on top of our core market.”

In addition, putting that glamour back into the experience is something that many will enjoy, and Simon Geere believes that Farnborough Airport has a role to play in promoting that aspirational product that for an increasing number of passengers is becoming an increasingly desirable purchase.

Raising the Profile

Significant investments in the facilities and infrastructure have been made over the last 20 years, and Farnborough Airport has become not only the business aviation gateway to London but also a major employer and contributor to the region’s development, working with charitable and community initiatives and supporting local employment.

“There are thousands of jobs linked directly or indirectly to the airport, the epicentre of an aerospace business hub, and while our economic role for businesses is very clear, we also need to win the hearts and minds of our local communities.”

“We are now launching our new apprenticeship scheme in September, in cooperation with Farnborough Technical College. It makes a lot of sense to train, develop and get people excited about the industry that we’re in, and sourcing our employees from the local community is fantastic.”

Speaking about the coming months, Simon Geere reveals that the plan is to use this record-breaking year as a springboard to reposition Farnborough Airport. “We want to align more with the premium travel market and elevate the brand of Farnborough through association with others.”

In line with its aspirations, Farnborough is about to commence work on its new third hangar, which will provide 175,000 square feet of temperature-controlled hangar space to its base operators, an investment worth £55 million.

The new hangar will meet the highest BREEAM environmental rating standard, meaning it will be within the top 25% of non-domestic buildings for sustainability performance. “This investment is a signal of our competence and a manifestation that Farnborough is moving forward as a premium travel product,” concludes Simon Geere.

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