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What Your FBO Can Learn from the United Flight 3411 Video

By John L. Enticknap and Ron R. Jackson, Principals, Aviation Business Strategies Group (ABSG)

With the violent video etched into our minds of the United Airlines customer being forcefully ejected from his seat and dragged from the aircraft, it gives us pause to reflect on the impact that social media reporting has on our lives and the aviation services business.

As we teach in our NATA FBO Success Seminar and CSR Certification Workshop, customers are constantly watching our performance, taking mental and sometimes electronic pictures as we go about our business. Nothing is private anymore. Increasingly, our opinions and even purchasing decisions are being shaped and molded by the social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, YouTube and Yelp.

What we learned primarily from the United debacle is that putting the company first and the customer second is a formula for disaster. Today, more than ever, companies have to change their business-first mentality and focus on creating a customer-first internal culture.  Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos expresses it perhaps the best in a recent compelling letter to shareholders

"There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality."

By Day 1 vitality, Bezos is eluding to the vigor and vitality companies experience on the first day they go into business as basically a startup.

Obsessive customer focus is instrumental in protecting the intrinsic value of an FBO enterprise. At the end of the day, the value of the FBO facility is not in the brick and mortar, but rather it’s in its customer base and how customers view and process the customer service experience.

For the FBO, obsessive customer focus is manifested with three primary areas:

1. Operations and Training. Having a consistent approach to serving the customer each and every time through training and a comprehensive standard operating procedures (SOP) manual. If procedures are not in writing then they won't be followed consistently.

2. Safety and Security. What the SOP manual is to operations, an active safety management system (SMS) is to safety and security. A strong SMS will help decrease incidents in all aircraft movements, both on the ramp and in the hangar. Your customers will notice and tell their peers. FBOs that want an even stronger safety program are adopting the IS-BAH registration standards.

3. Customer Service Training. Many FBOs don't condone incidents on the ramp, yet they tolerate miscues in delivering customer service. Again, if it's not in writing and skillfully trained, then it will not be delivered consistently.

Remember, customers vote with their dollars and influence with their recommendations. You should be aware of how customers perceive your business and what they communicate to their peers about your business through social media channels and in face-to-face conversations.

Business aviation is a small community and word gets around. Protecting your enterprise with obsessive customer focus is one way, and perhaps the only way, to keep repeating Day 1.


Please leave a comment on this subject below. If you have any questions, please give us a call or send us an email:, 404-867-5518;, 972-979-6566.


John Enticknap has more than 35 years of aviation fueling and FBO services industry experience and is an IS-BAH accredited auditor. Ron Jackson is co-founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and president of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and customer service training. Visit the biography page or for more background.


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© 2017 ABSG

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