The Middle East charter market has gone a long way to shedding its reputation as a hot-bed of illegal, so-called grey-market, activity, according to leading charter brokering group Air Partner. Just a few years ago, legal loopholes in operating rules and a lack of enforcement initiative on the part of aviation officials meant that so-called "grey market" activity was rife in this part of the world, making it hard for legitimate operators and brokers to make a living.
"The Middle East has seen rapid growth in commercial operations and it is now much more respectable," said David MacDonald, director of Air Partner's Private Jets division. By contrast, he said that another new business aviation market, Russia, has now become a hotbed of illegal charter activity.
This view was endorsed by Aoife O'Sullivan, a partner with aviation law firm Gates & Partners. She told AIN that aviation authorities in the Middle East-and especially here in the Arabian Gulf states-are eager to demonstrate that the industry is regulated vigorously to the highest Western standards.
But the same cannot be said outside this part of the world. Air Partner and charter operator Gama Aviation are leading a new campaign demanding tougher policing of illegal charter operations worldwide. Gama CEO Marwan Khalek believes that as many as half of all private charter flights in some markets are not conducted on a fully legal basis.
The campaigners, who are backed by business aviation associations in Europe, want regulators to be more aggressive in doing spot checks on operators at airports. They also want to see the closure of loopholes that are allowing dry leases to be flagrantly abused as cover for illegal charte