Can You Be Late to the Prom and Still Get a Date? Ask George Zimmer

Can You Be Late to the Prom and Still Get a Date? Ask George Zimmer

By Jeff Price

Regal Aviation facilities at Love Field include a multimillion-dollar Customer Care Center.

Regal Aviation facilities at Love Field include a multimillion-dollar Customer Care Center.

Starting a new fixed base operation at Dallas Love Field could be compared to getting your tux three years after the prom.

When George Zimmer, founder and CEO of Men’s Wearhouse, and David MacDonald, his former chief pilot, decided to expand Regal Aviation’s capabilities by opening an FBO at the airport, there were already seven competing for the general aviation market at that airport. They were ready for obvious competition.

Debbie MacDonald, Regal Aviation’s general manager, explained that Zimmer, a seasoned traveler, and MacDonald, who now serves as company president, had actually already been chartering out the corporation’s aircraft, when not in use by Zimmer, before founding a specialized executive aircraft charter company in 1998. She said that the company began with that one aircraft and before they knew it, things “kind of got out of control” and they were managing 23 aircraft.

From the beginning, it was planned to operate the charter company on the same principles that made Men’s Wearhouse such a success. Part of the objective was to provide “luxurious, safe, dependable executive aircraft.”

With a fleet of company and privately owned aircraft, Regal Aviation now serves more than 5,400 airports from its charter bases in Dallas and Houston; Sacramento, Calif.; and Naples, Fla.

L to R: George Zimmer and David MacDonald, cofounders of Regal Aviation.

L to R: George Zimmer and David MacDonald, cofounders of Regal Aviation.

“We have an aircraft out there we’re managing as well,” said MacDonald. “It helps us pick up some of the charter business from some of the fractionals from coast-to-coast. In Dallas we do pick up a lot of business, but a lot of that is only if it comes out of this general facility.”

Regal Aviation’s charter business provides corporations access to a large variety of aircraft. Through a 24-hour dispatch center, customers can charter Gulfstreams, a Challenger, a Falcon 20 or 50 or even an Aerostar 350B helicopter.

The aircraft are appointed with soft leather seating, entertainment systems and full galleys or refreshment centers. Business executives, sports figures and entertainment celebrities from around the world often specifically request Regal Aviation’s aircraft.

The company’s aircraft management services include flight crews, hangar storage, discounted fuel, aircraft handling and cleaning, catering, maintenance, scheduling, charter marketing and trip scheduling. Aircraft are also available for lease or sale.

Regal Aviation opened its FBO at Dallas Love Field in August 2002.

“Of course, it wasn’t the best timing because 9/11 happened and business was slow, but we picked up about 14 percent of the business at Love Field,” MacDonald said.

Since Regal Aviation is still building its customer base and working on increasing its transient traffic, an obvious question is how they plan to compete with the likes of some of the major FBO franchises on the market, and differentiate themselves to stand out from the pack. MacDonald says that three things are the key. One is flexible operating policies, while another is their staff.

Regal Aviation lobby’s view of the ramp at Love Field.

Regal Aviation lobby’s view of the ramp at Love Field.

“Our staff is the core of our business here,” says MacDonald. “They’re friendly, courteous, professional, and they’re all NATA safety-first certified.

And we don’t have any turnover in employees in the FBO. Everyone that’s here now has been here since the inception of the company.”

Actually, there has been one exception. When a line service technician decided he wanted to be a pilot, Regal supported him in his goals. He now works at SimuFlite.

MacDonald says people like working there, because they make it a fun place to work and are fair and honest with the employees.

The third key is customer service. That goes back to Regal Aviation’s original objectives, which besides providing “luxurious, safe, dependable executive aircraft,” included providing an “eloquent level of customer service that would be unmatched.”

At Love Field, Regal does this through a multimillion-dollar Customer Care Center. Their facilities at the airport offer a state-of-the-art executive terminal and flight crew amenities including quiet rooms, an exercise room, shower facilities, TV room, an executive departure lounge and a conference center. A flight planning room is equipped with WSI weather/planning computer. Additional features include discount and contract fuel, 24-hour service, valet parking for departing and arriving passengers, catering and rental cars, and complimentary limousine service to flight crews for transfers to and from their hotels.

Regal also offers 400,000 square feet of ramp space secured through the airport’s security systems, but also through additional state-of-the-art security systems, cameras, motion detectors and automatic gates installed by Regal.

“Nobody gets out to the ramp; it’s all gated,” MacDonald said. “The gates are all operated by the employees inside so nobody can push a button for a gate to open.”

Standard services like vacuuming out aircraft when they arrive and providing coffee and ice are the norm, but MacDonald points out that a lot of businesses at Love Field charge for these customer service amenities, and they decided not to do that. Their customer service is free to those who come in. Of course, they hope the customer will buy fuel.

And, it doesn’t make a difference to Regal whether the aircraft is small or big.

The Staff of Regal Aviation.

The Staff of Regal Aviation.

“The pilot in the Citation or the pilot in the twin-engine 421 gets the same service as the Gulfstream and the Challenger,” MacDonald said. “We just don’t make that differentiation here, and we don’t charge a plane to come in and park on the ramp overnight.”

So, will Regal’s service meet all of your aviation needs? They guarantee it.

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