Christened two years ago during the last Dubai Air Show, ExecuJet Aviation’s Middle East business jet handling and maintenance facility in some ways is a microcosm of the city itself.
The passenger lounge is enormous by traditional FBO standards, at least in its vertical dimensions: halogen pendant lights suspended from 35-foot-high ceilings shine down on opulent leather couches, hand-woven rugs and just the right amounts of polished wood and brass work. But like the rest of Dubai, the space is in the throes of transformation.
For instance, ExecuJet had planned to turn a section of the lounge into an Arabian-themed relaxation area, only to be informed by the firm hired to perform the work that it was pulling out of the project. The contractor was simply too busy with all its hotel and office building jobs to finish the assignment on time.
Such tales, of course, reflect the challenges created by the explosive growth in Arabia’s self-proclaimed “brightest city.” Another challenge has been meeting demand for executive charter, especially from customers in Western Europe and Russia who increasingly view Dubai as a top business and tourist destination. “The flow of traffic from outside the region has picked up immensely,” said ExecuJet Middle East managing director Michael Berry. “It’s adding to demand from local customers that was already high.”
As businesses and wealthy individuals continue to stream into the city, the chokehold on charter demand will become even more pronounced, he said.
ExecuJet Middle East operates 14 business jets under management contracts, but owners have made only four of them available for charter. The company hopes to double that number soon by adding a Bombardier Challenger 850, 605 and a few Learjet 60s to the Challenger 300, 604, a single Learjet 60 and a Cessna Citation III in the charter pool now. “The interesting point is that a lot of our charter flights recently haven’t originated in Dubai,” Berry noted. “They’ve been to places like the Seychelles and Maldives from Russia. That’s a fundamental change.”
ExecuJet Middle East serves as the region’s authorized Bombardier distribution agent and maintenance provider. It boasts the space to service as many as 10 airplanes at a time, depending on their sizes. A nearby parts depot supplies high-demand replacement components for Learjet, Challenger and Global models for airplanes based here or transiting the region.
The company has 118 employees based in Dubai including 45 mechanics and 25 pilots. It recently became the sales agent for the Grob SPn business twinjet, and it remains open to the possibility of forging partnerships with additional airframe makers, Berry said. For the time being, the company’s focus remains on adding airplanes to its charter operation. Berry said ExecuJet is actively seeking a Global Express to replace one that was recently sold by its customer.
As for the passenger lounge upgrades, Berry said ExecuJet has already found another company to complete the project, but he lamented the fact that it couldn’t be finished in time for the show as originally planned. Of course, Berry and his staff have bigger concerns. The company recently applied for a permit to build a second, bigger Dubai facility, this one at the Al Maktoum International airport now under construction at the sprawling Dubai World Central site south of the city.