The true measure of a “full service FBO” isn’t how they operate when everything goes according to plan, it’s how helpful they try to be when a pilot is in a fix.
I flew in for a day trip intending to only be on the ground a few hours. I had them top off the tank but opted not to tie down. A few hours later I checked the weather at my destination and a storm cell there kept me grounded. I thought it was possible that the storm may move in here as well so I had them tie down. Even though it wasn’t an overnight tie-down (about two hours, actually) I was still charged the $12 tie-down fee.
I waited for the cell to dissipate which pushed my departure after dark. The gentleman on duty that night notified me that they closed at 11 and if I stayed late I would be charged a $95 after hour fee, even though he had to work late anyway due to a jet on the ramp waiting for its passengers. I said I should be able to leave before close but if for some reason I couldn’t and I needed to wait longer do you have a courtesy car? He replied “I could call you a cab”, which I took as meaning “no, we don’t have any courtesy cars”.
During my wait I asked him if he sold any sectional charts because I could use an updated paper backup in case my electronic sectional fails. He said he’s never heard that question before and no he doesn’t have (or know where to find) any sectional charts. (So, I’m dubious of their claim of having “pilot supplies”). I also asked if it’d be okay if I just wait out the night in the FBO, and he said “Again, I’d have to charge you $95 for every hour you stay after hours”. So, I’m dubious of their claim of having a “snooze room”.
During the pre-flight I discovered (along with trace amounts of water in my recently filled tanks) that my landing light fuse had gone bad and I didn’t have a replacement. The guy said he didn’t have (or know where to find) a replacement (again, pilot supplies) and that he could call the mechanic but that if he did he’d charge me $95 for, well, essentially bothering the mechanic while he’s not on shift, I decided not to do that and instead started looking for a place to stay for the night.
I sat in my plane calling every motel, hotel, and flee infested rat-hole within an hour’s walk of the airport and all were booked. I watched as the jet’s passengers finally arrived. The guy working the counter came out and saw me sitting in my plane and obviously thought I was planning on just sleeping there or something because he said he was going to charge me $95 for staying “after hours”. I was planning on leaving the field when he did and not making him stay any longer than he had to anyway due to the jet, even if it meant I’d have to sleep on a park bench.
I asked if I found an opening in a motel which is about a 15 minute drive away if he’d give me a lift. To this he told me “Oh, I could give you a crew car”. Remember I already asked about a courtesy car earlier so unless he draws some important distinction between “crew car” and “courtesy car”…
In the end I ended up sleeping (all of maybe two hours) in the car and leaving at dawn. The same guy was working in the morning and I guess he must have felt a little sorry for me because he waived that $95 “after hours” fee in the morning. Still, had they had a readily available supply of 25 amp fuses, or had been willing to let me back on the field after I went down to Wal-Mart and bought one myself, would have been nice.
I get the feeling that this person wanted to be more helpful but he also didn’t want to upset his boss so as you read this review keep in mind I have nothing against this gentleman but rather the policies and business practices of the FBO itself.
Maybe it’s just me, maybe where I did my flight training and most of my flying up until a few months ago (in the Pacific Northwest) FBOs are just different. I’m used to FBOs where there’s a door code (usually the CTAF or something) that you can enter to get in after hours, a sofa to crash on, and food to eat next to a donation jar.
Maybe I’ve been spoiled by places like Hood River (4S2) when I asked them if I could get a pre-heat and the owner went out of his way to push my little bird into his hanger, hooked up a pre-heater, and let me warm up without ever suggesting that I owed him anything. But, with few exceptions (Port Clinton is one), a lot of the FBOs I’ve had interactions with around here care less about serving pilots and more about cutting corners and squeezing pennies out of their customers.
Excellent service once again. Lineman marshaled me into a spot in front of the doors right away and they had my rental car waiting for me. Tie-down was $12 per night for a piston single and other fees were waived with a fuel purchase. And the pre-departure muffin was tasty.