Million Air continues to expand its network of fixed-base operations (FBOs) through new franchised additions and has plans under way to invest millions into its new facilities.
But at the same time, CEO Roger Woolsey stresses that the company remains firmly focused on the FBO business – not the mergers and acquisition business.
Million Air has recently added a new franchise at Orlando Sanford International Airport, is about to open its third location in Canada this year, and is investing millions in multiple locations, including plans for a new flagship FBO at its Houston headquarters. The new facilities bring its chain to 27, five of which are owned by Million Air. The others are operated as franchises.
While Million Air continues to invest millions into its franchises and wholly owned facilities, Woolsey maintains the goal is to maintain its focus on the FBO business and not fall into a pattern of growth for the sake of growth.
And he is emphatic that he will not engage in a bidding war that drives the price of the FBO into an unreasonable arena. He acknowledges other chains on the acquisition trail and notes they frequently run into multiple bidder scenarios. “It’s a difficulty,” he says. “We are bumping into other brands.”
While other brands may be more aggressive, Woolsey says he has no interest in bidding up those properties. “We backed out of Miami … backed out of Atlanta,” Woolsey says. “If you overpay for your property, you can’t make money ... or you charge ridiculous fuel prices.”
Million Air may have fewer properties than some, but the company wants to stay true to its business model, he says, likening it to a Four Seasons approach with Target prices. This means fuel prices can be dollars less than at other locations. “If we get into a bidding war then we have to charge … more dollars.”
He adds that while Million Air is focused on the aviation business, “some others are in the mergers and acquisition business. And they are making a mess.”
As for its investments, the newest FBO to join the chain is a facility at Orlando Sanford International Airport. The facility is operated by Freeman Holdings Group, the ninth Freeman location in the Million Air chain. Freeman CEO Scott Freeman calls the Million Air addition a strategic move for the company that operators facilities stretching from California to New York. “In looking at the map, we have representation in the Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, Central U.S. and several southern locations, but no location in the Southeast,” Freeman says.
As part of the addition, the facility is undergoing a $3.5 million renovation that including stripping the facility’s 10,000-ft. attached hangar down to the structural steel and rebuilding. The 7,000-sq.-ft. terminal building is also undergoing upgrades that will include some of the Million Air-standard features, along with a range of amenities such as a theater, flight planning room and executive conference room.
Along with the Sanford facility, Million Air expects its third FBO in Canada to begin operating by mid-December. The $19 million facility at Calgary International will encompass a 7,500-sq.-ft. FBO, two 40,000-sq.-ft. hangars and 5.3 acres of ramp space. The facility joins Million Air’s other Canadian locations in Toronto and Vancouver. Woolsey says the location opens the new central Canadian market for the chain and enables it to tap into operations such as those involved in the oil and gas industry.
Aside from the new facilities, Million is pouring millions into upgrades of existing facilities, including a $15 million project – a new flagship 28,000-sq.-ft. FBO at its headquarters in Houston. The facility is alongside the nearly 99,000-sq.-ft. of hangar space, office space and 10 new acres of ramp space. The new FBO will be the first new facility at Houston Hobby in years, an expansion made possible in part through a new lease with the airport authority that leaves rooms for further growth down the road.
The upgrade follows the move of its Addison, Texas, facility last year and a $4.5 million project that doubled the ramp space to accommodate the growing managed fleet there. Million Air added a Gulfstream G650 to the fleet, and Woolsey says the company has been “flying the wings off of it.”