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Business aviation goes from strength to strength: in the current economic climate, the premium business aviation sector is set to carry on expanding, with new business opportunities.

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Demand for private aviation is less price sensitive than general aviation, mainly because when high-net-worth individuals and corporate executives want to be somewhere in a hurry, they are prepared to pay for the privilege. When multibillion-dollar deals hang in the balance, the flexibility of private jets allows them to travel when and where they want, and for them it is well worth paying the premium in order to have their needs met.

Some 450 business aircraft are currently operating in the Middle East region and the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), with more than 130 members, is an active champion of the industry.

A conference panel which included Ammar Balkar, CEO of the MEBAA, Mohammed Al Bulooki, VP of Airline Marketing and Aeronautical Revenue at Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC); David Hernandez of Vedder Price; Dr Mark Pierotti, COO of Al Jaber Private Jets; Steffan Harpoth, Silver Air CEO; and Shane O'Hare, president and CEO of Royal Jet, agreed that the industry had enjoyed exceptional growth in the past few years.

O'Hare explained that there were a number of reasons why his company was in a particularly favourable position, not the least of which is the fact that the Middle East region itself is well situated to quickly come out of the economic downturn.

"To a certain degree, the Middle Eastern market has been isolated from the overall worldwide downturn because of the high level of liquidity in the region and a strong GDP, which is forecast to remain at around 7%," he said.

The market is attracting newcomers: Al Jaber Aviation (AJA), based in Abu Dhabi, started flying last June 2009 with two new Legacy 600s, offering VIP charter services from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. With a fleet of 21 aircraft on order, AJA is aiming to become a major player in the rapidly growing VIP charter market.

Seemingly unlikely destinations such as Iraq are becoming significant sources of new charter business in the Middle East. Like anywhere else, doing business face to face business is crucial and executives value the ability to visit multiple locations in a short space of time. Added to this are the safety benefits of travelling as a single party and having a fully audited aircraft waiting on stand-by. Executive chartering is going from strength to strength: Chapman Freeborn Airchartering, established in 1973, has reported a sharp increase in demand for passenger charter flights to and from Iraq over the past six months. They have had requests for tailored charter flights to places such as Basrah, Baghdad, Najaf, Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk increasing month on month in 2009 as the reconstruction projects in the country were stepped up.

The luxurious outfitting of the jets is also an added bonus, as are the personalised services provided bypassing the hassles and constraints of scheduled carriers and lengthy, time-consuming check-ins and formalities. The maintenance, catering and chartering facilities are also being expanded in Dubai and Saudi Arabia (see 'Aviation', The Middle East, January 2010) in line with increased demand.

With the growing sector, tailored trade shows are also on the up: the fourth Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show takes place from 7 to 9 December 2010 in Dubai. Alison Weller, director and organiser of MEBA, has expressed optimism for the future of business aviation in the region. "The Middle East Business Aviation Association is predicting a 20% increase in business-jet owners over the next four years, creating a $1bn industry in the region."
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Author:Sajoo, Mina Al
Publication:The Middle East
Geographic Code:70MID
Date:Feb 1, 2010
Words:579
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