Once every four years athletes from 54 countries across the world that were former territories of the British Empire gather to compete in the Commonwealth Games.
This year, the multi-sport event is scheduled to be held in Birmingham, England from July 28 to August 8.
Here Chris Beer, director, XLR Executive Jet Centres discusses how the Birmingham facility is preparing for the event.
Can you please explain the logistics of planning for an event like the Commonwealth Games?
XLR has been planning this event since last summer, working with our third party partners to make sure every part of this complex jigsaw is put together and no items are missing from the puzzle.
Due to the nature of the event there are lots of unknown factors, the biggest being around Covid-19 and how this would play out with testing and other restrictions. At the time of writing this the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) had decided that the Games would be free to enter without the need of testing or vaccination status applied, however the staff and teams of Ambassadors that will work at XLR will wear masks and follow strict protocols to protect the team.
The Jet Centre will continue to be fogged and the cleaning we have in place will increase for the Games so after each large flight the Jet Centre will be given a deep clean to make sure the terminal is always looking its best and we are safe in the operation we are dealing with.
How long did the planning take?
Planning has been underway since the end of last year, XLR has made sure to include several of its trusted partners to make sure that all the pieces of our jigsaw are ready to be put in place during July. It is very difficult to plan for an event such as this as decisions are being made on a weekly basis and things keep changing. Because there are many agencies involved with the planning of this major sporting event plans need to be fluid however from a local, on the ground perspective, we have a core of ideas that we needed to run through and dealt with. These plans are going well and XLR is ready to handle whatever business enquiry it gets. As the only full service FBO at BHX we can handle any sized aircraft and on a regular basis look after chartered B737, A321 and on occasions A330 & B787.
How much are you expecting the traffic to your FBO to increase?
I think its fair to say that traffic will increase for the Commonwealth Games and that both FBO’s will have an increase of their normal business. XLR is the largest Jet Centre at Birmingham and as such we often see large charter flights and it is a big possibility that we will see some of this business through our private terminal. The difficulty is that operators have been told to leave it to the last week to book travel which is very awkward in the planning stages as we continue to accept our regular traffic.
How many extra passengers are you expecting?
That’s a very difficult question. XLR will probably see a 50% increase of passengers typical for July, if operators wish to use BHX to move athletes then we could see a lot more passengers. We are ready for both VIP movements and standard passenger movements and can accommodate both as we have several lounges and waiting areas.
How do you work with operators and individuals to ensure everything runs smoothly during an event like this?
We have one point of contact for the VIP parties who will oversee the entire operation. Within this event that person is me as the director of XLR and I will be on site for the entire Games based within the FBO. I cascade the relevant information to the FBO manager and he will pass this to his supervisors and team to look after the specific details of each enquiry to manage each operation according to what is required.
XLR is well versed at looking after VIP operations and regularly handles foreign dignitaries and British Royal flights and operators use XLR because we are the only FBO that can offer a very private arrival and departure experience. Our entire operation is located behind the confines of airport security. We can even offer private receptions within our hangar whereby aircraft up to a certain size arrive and are parked on the exclusive XLR Ramp, are then towed inside the hangar on arrival, doors closed and the cars driven in to the hangar through a secret VIP entrance. No one else can offer an exclusive service such as this. XLR also has a very large private car park whereby up to 30 cars can wait hidden away from prying eyes or camera lenses again at BHX no one else can offer this.
What special arrangements do you have in place?
We have rented in extra GSE so that we can safely turnaround all our aircraft in a timely manner. XLR is a full service FBO and offers a full service to all its clients big or small on a daily basis, however for an event like this even a full service FBO needs extra support hence why we have worked with our partners at EAS and hired in extra ground power units, tugs and aircraft passenger steps. We also have extra staff available utilizing resource from our XLR Jet Centres and within our own group.
We have also reached out to Eden Hotel Collection part of the Rigby Group (XLR owners), who have boutique 4 and 5 star hotels set in beautiful locations such as Warwickshire and Stratford upon Avon and we have passengers and crew rates that can be utilized when booking through XLR. We know hotel accommodation within Birmingham is going to be very difficult to come by and by utilizing these stunning hotels we can help take the pressure off the City and give our customers somewhere they won’t have stayed at before. For those that have booked airport accommodation we will be offering a shuttle service direct from XLR.
What problems can an event like this cause you?
Mixing event traffic and regular customers is never easy. XLR will do everything in its power to make sure the traffic for the Games is well looked after and that our customers and operators receive the best handling at BHX however XLR also needs to be mindful of their regular business, the important people that make Birmingham busy at every other day of the week. The regular business will continue to operate, football charters will still need to be handled and XLR will continue to look after its core business alongside any traffic it attracts for the Games.