features LUX FBO: Cloud nine at ground level

Sister companies LUX FBO and WAAS Aerospace are bringing a whole new meaning to elevated FBO and MRO services for aircraft owners and operators visiting the Montreal area.
By Natasha McKenty | October 4, 2022

Estimated reading time 12 minutes, 57 seconds.

Located minutes from Montreal’s core, LUX FBO (fixed-base operator) offers full ground service to an all-encompassing range of aircraft (and clientele) at Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport (YHU). Next door to LUX, you will find maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider WAAS Aerospace (WAAS), a not-so-secret ingredient in LUX’s recipe for success. Together, the FBO and MRO offer various aircraft maintenance and hospitality services that make every patron feel like a VIP.

LUX FBO’s executive lounge establishes a ground-level “cloud nine” experience, with lively color schemes and the warmth of strategically placed fireplaces. LUX FBO Photo

LUX FBO general manager Francois-Luc Jutras recently joined Skies for a virtual interview. The backdrop of the high-end, yet home-like, décor that LUX customers have grown accustomed to set the stage for easy conversation. The atmosphere delivers something that words cannot convey — an unspoken reassurance that as owners and operators hand over the keys to their aircraft, the airframes will receive the same level of hospitality as the clients do.

Inaugurated in the spring of 2019, LUX and WAAS have established a ground-level “cloud nine” experience; the facilities’ lively color schemes, met with the warmth of strategically placed fireplaces, match the friendliness and skill of those who call LUX more than just a workplace.

Upping the FBO Game

In its infancy, LUX FBO has already upped the ante, earning accreditation and accolades to illustrate its competitive edge — in a market that offers very little space at the top of the podium.

The FBO market in Canada is already an elevated playing field, but, as often happens when the competition is stiff, it motivates excellence.

“What’s unique about us is that we can do basically everything a customer requests right here in-house,” said Jutras. “So, there’s no need to outsource almost all the services we have. We have them here and on-site.”

The FBO has everything from security screening to check-in counters and a large waiting area. LUX is hoping to draw in a low-cost carrier or a scheduled business airline. LUX FBO Photo

For example, LUX has a private deicing pad at its facility, allowing workers to deice aircraft directly on the ramp. “That’s uncommon,” noted Jutras. “And we also have a fully equipped commercial kitchen with an executive chef. So we can do next-level catering.”

He added: “We’ve always been bold and creative in how we market our terminal. We have a lot of young people at the company, and I think that’s one of our strengths. [As a result], we might not think the same way that an older FBO does.”

Although for many FBOs, fuel acts as a principal source of revenue, LUX is “very aggressive” regarding fuel costs.

“We are usually 10 to 20 cents less than the rest of the field. And when there are new customers, we waive ramp fees,” said Jutras. “We want people to come and appreciate the service and the infrastructure, and [encourage them to] come back.”

Acknowledged by The Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s Top Growing Companies, LUX offers a 61,000-square-foot hangar with a full menu of amenities to serve a “tailor-made experience for business and private aviation,” as well as 200,000 sq ft of ramp space.   

LUX has a private deicing pad at its facility, allowing workers to deice aircraft directly on the ramp. LUX FBO Photo

“We can accommodate aircraft as large as the runway can accommodate,” noted Jutras. “We’ve had Airbus A319s and Boeing 737-800s. [Recently], we handled a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules, so we can [accommodate] basically everything that lands here on this 7,800-foot runway.”

While the FBO has everything from security screening to check-in counters and a large waiting area, “we’re hoping to draw a low-cost carrier or a scheduled business airline,” shared Jutras.

Service that Makes Sense

WAAS Aerospace and LUX FBO are sister companies which reside side-by-side in the “largest private development project at Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport.”

In the fall of 2019, WAAS celebrated the completion of the “largest hangar of the decade in Quebec.” The building, located at YHU, is able to hold two Boeing 737-800s and several business jets.

The multi-million-dollar office space, hangar, FBO, and MRO partnership means LUX clients have access to specialty ground services, including aircraft and avionics maintenance. LUX FBO Photo

The multi-million-dollar office space, hangar, FBO, and MRO partnership means LUX clients — which include “some National Hockey League teams” and “members of Formula 1 teams” — have access to specialty ground services, including aircraft and avionics maintenance.

According to WAAS, the type of maintenance typically provided includes “100-hour inspections, annual and progressive inspections, and pre-flight checks.”

“LUX works very closely with WAAS, and we share the hangar with them,” said Jutras. “Together, we offer the customer the greatest all-inclusive service. A few weeks ago, we had 35 jets here, which proves our efficiency.”

Inside the unique space resides a paint chamber, machine workshop, and avionics and structural workshop.

“Others would call it VIP, but for us, it’s simply the way to go.”

For the ground services operation, the capability of servicing a wide variety of aircraft types is as significant as the diversity of clientele (and the situations they might find themselves in).

LUX FBO recently handled a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130 Hercules; the facility can accommodate any aircraft that can land at YHU’s 7,800-foot runway. LUX Photo

When asked for an example of the types of unique situations the FBO/MRO has accommodated, Jutras took a moment to decide which scenario he was most eager to share: the time a Boeing 737-200 arrived on a Saturday evening in need; the countless times LUX has invited young children and spotters inside for a facility tour; or the myriad of messages they’ve received with positive feedback regarding the high-level personalized service that LUX regards as its norm.

“We had a Boeing 737-200 call us at six o’clock on a Saturday night,” began Jutras.

“They were in a circuit waiting to land at YUL; the runways were closed for bad weather, and the aircraft was running out of fuel.”

In under 20 minutes, the LUX team (who received the calls from dispatch on their day off) were able to make accommodations for the airliner.

“[At the time], there were a lot of aircraft doing circuits, and some of them were starting to divert to Toronto and nearby airports. But this company informed me that they were running out of fuel. So, I let them know that we do not have staff on site, but to go ahead and land – ‘I’ll figure something out,’” he said.

“We managed to get employees on the ramp, and when we all arrived, the aircraft was just entering the ramp, patiently waiting to be marshalled in.”

Although for many FBOs, fuel acts as a principal source of revenue, LUX is “very aggressive” regarding fuel costs. LUX FBO Photo

The airline crew were invited inside to “file a new flight plan and wait for YUL to re-open.” In less than an hour, the aircraft was refueled and on its way – a test of the FBO’s agility, “and what a 24/7 operation can mean,” said Jutras.

“There’s no chance we’ll turn away a customer,” he added. “Even if it’s dinner time on a beautiful Saturday in May.”

Often, young visitors and spotters visit from the safe side of the fence at YHU, and LUX has been known to “bring them on the ramp to see aircraft up close.”

Jutras said: “[We bring them inside the fence to] visit our aircraft, have an ice cream in our lounge, and watch an aircraft take off from the ramp.”

The Future

While LUX is headquartered at YHU, it also serves Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB). Looking to the future, the plan is to open a handful of FBO locations outside of Quebec, starting with Ontario and Manitoba.

As Jutras enthusiastically shared plans for growth and transformation, he admitted that everything rides on the shoulders of his staff — a group of “young people” who carry the work they do with pride and ease, along with a genuine desire to create an above-average environment for every client who walks in the door.

“We train [new staff] in-house with our standards,” he said. “Aviation is an industry that many of us dream of, and employees are thankful [to be given the opportunity].”

Jutras credits LUX’s “open-door environment where every idea is valued” for attracting an eager-to-learn and enticed-to-stay team.  

“A balance between aviation field staff and [those] coming from related fields is a plus for us as well,” he noted.

Jutras shared that going forward, one of the biggest challenges is going to be to “sell YHU versus YUL.”

YHU “is the easiest way to get to downtown Montreal,” he said. But convincing customers to refute the “habit of going to the same FBOs for years” can be arduous.

Acknowledged as one of Canada’s Top Growing Companies, LUX offers a 61,000-square-foot hangar with a full menu of amenities. LUX FBO Photo

“We need to get them to try our facility and our services,” added Jutras. “For that, we need to be aggressive with our offer — waive ramp fees for newcomers, bid the lowest fuel cost by far, etc. — and offer a unique customer experience. We need to ensure that a VIP business guest will enjoy their experience with their standards as much as an employee taking a charter flight to work.

“We aim to be one shot ahead [of the competition]. Most of the time, if a customer tries us, they will come back.”

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