One of the more notable effects of the pandemic on private aviation has been a surge in traffic to vacation destinations due to diminished commercial schedules and a desire to fly safely. Perhaps no location has demonstrated this as readily as PrimeSky, the lone FBO at Mexico’s San Jose Del Cabo International Airport (MMSD). Owned and operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, which manages 12 airports in the country as well as two in Jamaica, the facility saw an astounding 71 percent increase in operations between its pre-Covid 2019 and 2021 numbers. According to Patricia Silva Lugo, the company’s head of business development, it is on track to exceed last year’s totals. “Our average number is 19,000 operations per year after Covid,” she told AIN.
The company has managed MMSD and operated the FBO there on a 50-year lease that started in 1998. In 2009 it moved the FBO into a larger 1,400-sq-m (15,000-sq-ft) building that it renovated into an upscale private terminal to form the first of what will eventually be a chain of PrimeSky FBOs at other airports. The building has an airy, double-height lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow abundant natural light. It offers passenger seating areas, a pilot lounge, a 10-seat A/V-equipped conference room, a bar, and car rental through multiple providers. Catering is provided by an authorized third-party vendor located at the airport, and onsite customs and immigration clearance is available at the terminal during the FBO’s normal hours of operation from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day, with after-hours service on request.
The facility is undergoing a major upgrade. “In the building itself we want to improve the passenger and pilot experience,” said Lugo, adding the upgrades, which will be completed early next year, will see the replacement of furniture and include a new pilot lounge with shower facilities and a new passenger lounge layout with more private areas.
Outside, the company is increasing its 66,000 sq m (16.3 acres) of ramp space by 33,400 sq m. The 176.5 million peso ($9 million) year-long project is expected to wrap by the end of 2022. The increased space is necessary to accommodate the increasing number of private aircraft at the airport. Pedro Barajas, the FBO’s head of operations, noted that on New Year’s Eve last year, there were 88 private jets parked overnight at the facility. Peak season for the airport runs from the end of November (coinciding with Thanksgiving in the U.S.) through the end-of-year holidays and into March for spring break. This past March the location saw more than 2,200 operations.
Barajas added that during peak season, and as owners migrate to their winter homes, there can be several jets based at the facility such as a Dassault Falcon 2000 and a Hawker 900. While it does not have any hangars, that will soon change as the company broke ground earlier this year on a 5,000-sq-m hangar, which will be able to accommodate BBJ/ACJ-sized aircraft when it is completed in the second half of 2023. It will be followed by another similar-sized pair a year later.
The FBO has a staff of 47 and its line service technicians, trained through a government-authorized training provider, conduct pushback and towing, potable water and lavatory servicing, ground power unit hook-up, and even aircraft cabin cleaning. Like many airports in Mexico, all aircraft fueling is performed by Aeropuertos y Servicios Auxiliares, a government-owned and operated entity, but PrimeSky has filed permits with the authorities to be allowed to conduct its own into-plane fueling. It expects to acquire a fleet of tankers and begin offering that service next year.
The fact that the company operates both the airport and the sole FBO means there is no intermediary to add to the costs, allowing it to provide a competitive fee schedule to its clients, according to Lugo.
Barajas explained his service philosophy revolves around total customer satisfaction. “We always try to encourage our staff to really deliver the most pleasant experience for pilots and passengers.”
He described how last Thanksgiving the airport issued a Notam stating that due to the crowded ramp, all newly-arriving aircraft were being instructed to drop-and-go only. Yet, after one aircraft arrived laden with an entire family including their dogs, the FBO staff learned that the pilot was also the father of the family. Barajas and his staff repositioned no fewer than five aircraft to make just enough room for the aircraft to be able to stay, and for the father to enjoy the holiday with his family.
Other instances include celebrating arriving passengers’ birthdays with decorations or having a mariachi band and tequila on hand to greet a bachelor party.