The Middle East presents plenty of opportunity for business aviation growth, and at last month’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo businesses reported that their investment in the region–and beyond–is paying dividends.
Royal Jet will celebrate its tenth anniversary next May, and the company is reporting significant growth and its busiest year so far. Last year Royal Jet operated 3,135 flights to 370 cities in 136 countries, and this year already is set to exceed this figure. Revenues in the first quarter of 2012 were up 15 percent, while the company’s summer performance saw a 19-percent increase in flying hours over the same period in 2011.
Ali Al Naqbi has been at the heart of business aviation developments in the Middle East for more than a decade, playing a central role in the formation of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), of which he is chairman. This role followed three years as managing director of Abu Dhabi-based aircraft charter and management group Royal Jet. Previously, for almost 20 years, he had been with Abu Dhabi’s Amiri flight, from which Royal Jet was formed.
Royal Jet, the commercial private jet concern owned by the UAE’s Presidential Flight Authority and Abu Dhabi Aviation, is planning a major fleet expansion in 2013, the year of its 10th anniversary. A defection by the nine-jet company away from Boeing, given that Royal Jet owns the world’s largest Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) fleet–six aircraft–would be a major blow for the U.S. manufacturer.
Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a leading business aviation hub in the Arabian Gulf was further enhanced by the March staging of the inaugural Air Expo. The event, held at the Al Bateen Executive Airport nine months before rival Dubai’s Middle East Business Aviation show, attracted a reported 10,700 visitors and 105 exhibitors.
Royal Jet president and CEO Shane O’Hare is predicting that the Middle East market for private jet travel could grow at 6 to 8 percent this year and next, with Royal Jet itself forecasting 15-percent growth this year. He also said the growth of the private jet market could spawn the development of global alliances among operators, along similar lines to those in the airline sector. The Abu Dhabi-based flight services company reported a 15-percent increase in first-quarter revenue from a year ago.
The medevac unit of Abu Dhabi’s Royal Jet evacuated 31 Chinese workers injured in explosions in the Republic of Congo on March 10, transporting them on a Boeing Business Jet from Maya Maya Airport in Brazzaville, Congo’s capital, to Beijing, China, in 16 hours following a brief stop
While the inaugural three-day Abu Dhabi Air Expo held last week at Al Bateen Executive Airport attracted almost 100 exhibitors and approximately 7,500 visitors, the airport itself was the star of the show. Opened in the 1960s, Al Bateen is minutes from Abu Dhabi’s prime locations and lies on the city’s main island. In 2008, airport manager Abu Dhabi Airports converted it into a facility for business jet operators. Established VIP players Al Jaber Aviation and Prestige Jet and charter operator Falcon Aviation Services are its major users.
ExecuJet Aviation has been in the Middle East for the long haul since 1999 and since then it has seen the bizav market fluctuate from boom to flat and now reach a slow climb. It has seen rivals come and go, and ambitious business plans turn to dust.
Dubai-based Aviation Services Management (ASM) recently opened a new branch in Mumbai, the company’s second in India, to accommodate an increasing number of high-net-worth individuals taking advantage of corporate jet travel. The operation is staff by a team of six sales representatives.