NBAA Schedulers & Dispatcher Conference 2013 January 22-25th in San Antonio Texas
I have been travelling to the many business aviation trade shows and conferences: Geneva, Farnborough, Cannes, London, Dubai, Orlando, Houston, Dallas and now San Antonio – not necessarily in that order. These shows are where the aircraft manufactures such as Bombardier, Cessna, Gulfstream, Embraer, Dassault, Hawker Beachcraft, and even Airbus and Boeing “static” display their new aircraft and set up megalithic booths for wooing their customers.
Some of these booths will take up two floors and can include private meeting rooms, VIP lounge, a small restaurant or bar. Here you get to meet, if you are a suitable high value client, the CEOs, Presidents and VPs of manufacturing, marketing and product support who will help you to power broker $45,000,000 deals for the latest G650, Lineage 1000, or Global 6000.
This conference in San Antonio, however, was different than the high end gatherings of the EBACE, NBAA or the Farnborough or Paris Air Shows. Here is where the business aviation schedulers and dispatchers get to meet and discuss better how to get their high value clients to the next destination as quickly and efficiently as possible.
This is where an FBO may not be able to power broker any big sales to specific clients but where they can butter their bread by helping to drive new traffic to their airport or apron that might have otherwise flown by. This is where the “little guy” or in most cases the “gals” get their say in how the industry runs.
The organizers for this NBAA S&D Conference, as it is known, established a policy where everybody who attends is equal in that, as one attendee pointed out, the booths are set up (and here he paused for a second as if it was almost distasteful for an American to say this out loud) in a “socialist” fashion. The booths are all the same size and you are only allowed one booth space per NBAA membership.
446 exhibit spaces are available, each consisting of one 10-ft by 1-ft space… All display material and demonstrations must be confined within the limits of the exhibitors purchased space.
In other words all companies have the opportunity to compete shoulder-to-shoulder: from the big multinational FBOs, business airports and trip planning companies to the “mom-and-pop” run operations. As is the real world, however, some exhibitors are more equal than others.
Companies with multiple NBAA memberships were allowed to have adjacent, although not conjoining, booths. Thus the big guns like JetEx and World Fuel had several booths each representing a different aspect of their business. JetEx had one for China, another for their FBO services, the next for jet fuel sales and, last but not lease, one for Flight Support. Signature had one each for Canada, USA, Europe and Flight Support. Colt International had one for Trip Support and another for Risk Management Services.
The conference also had a program where World Fuel, Universal Weather, AVFuel, Phillips 66 and others sponsored a “street” theme. World Fuel went all out and organized a Western theme with black cowboy hats, black shirts, big belt buckles and sheriff badges that garnered a party atmosphere.
They even corralled the street with a “weathered wood” entrance and hired a professional cowboy to do rope and gun tricks. (No shooting, however, just fancy “quick draw” tricks.) I assume the firing pins had been filed down?
This atmosphere allows a venue where the schedulers and dispatchers from all types of business jet owning companies, such as Sherwin-Williams Paint, Wal-Mart and Pepsi-Cola, get to find out more about the lesser known FBOs, trip planners and fuel companies from around the world. The NBAA define this as the venue where:
NBAA member companies can reach this target audience of schedulers and dispatchers -key influencers and decision-making buyers of business aviation services…
The NBAA organizers facilitated the exchange with inspirational speakers, educational presentations, daily social lunches and a final day Grand Prize Luncheon with sponsored prizes that was loads of fun even if you didn’t win just to see the excitement of those who did.
The natural focus of this conference is America-centric but there are representatives from South America, Canada (Gateway Halifax, Kelly Western), Europe (Cambridge Airport, Harrods Stansted) and the Middle East (JetEx, HADID).
Being so American, however, most of the schedulers defined International Trips as being those trips to Mexico or that very difficult to understand country far far away called Canada. Seriously Canada?
Ironically one of the most sought after give-away prize at the conference was a trip to see the Polar Bears sponsored by Kelly Western an FBO in Winnipeg and conducted by Frontiers North a Tundra Buggy Lodge located a Polar Bear Point. If that is how Americans see Canada then I can understand how a trip to this mysterious far off country (which happens to share with America the longest “undefended” border of two countries in the world) can be seen as an International Trip.
Here is where the NBAA S&D Conference can help to educate those who make their company jets productive by really showing them how small the world is when you are using a business jet. The new jets can fly higher and longer, in some cases up to 51,000 feet and 6320 nautical miles, setting direct routes to world wide destinations.
Therefore you can depart out of Banyan Air Service’s First Choice FBO at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in Florida and fly direct non-stop to the oil rich emerging market of Nigeria for the same amount of time and a lot less hassle than getting from Boston to Chicago on Amtrak.
With your Global 6000 or G550 it is a non-stop flight from Fort Lauderdale to Lagos Nigeria where Evergreen Apple’s FBO staff expedite your way through the customs and immigration procedures so you can taxi direct to their private apron and disembark into the luxury VIP lounge. Once in the lounge you can arrange to freshen up in an onsite hotel room and then conduct your business meetings in the facility conference room and not have to drive anywhere. It’s all so easy to power broker those big deals face to a face when you can control your own travel destiny.
The NBAA organizers also understand the significance of “all work and no play” rule for the many schedulers and dispatchers who are on 24 hours call in their jobs and consequently allowed for the big companies to sponsor after hour parties.
The main NBAA event was the Howling at the (Tail) Gate Party at the Institute of Texan Cultures.
The party was extra interesting because the cultural and historic exhibitions were still open during evening. I ordered a cold beer and a hot pulled pork sandwich and wander around the museum absorbing culture. I think more museums should consider serving beer as a way of drawing in the crowds. One of the attendees ventured “I can tell my wife I am going to the museum for the afternoon, grab a cold beer and discuss archaeology with my buddies.”
“If only they would put up a big screen TV screen so we can watch the San Antonio Spurs at the same time.”