The first Middle East Business Aviation Conference (MEBA) is to be held in Dubai on November 19, on the eve of the Dubai Air Show (November 20 to 24). The event is a response to rising levels of interest in business aircraft from a widening prospective client base throughout the region.
According to Royal Jet, the Abu Dhabi-based executive charter operator acting as host, the conference will present various options for aircraft use (such as full and fractional ownership, management and charter) and answer frequently asked questions about this mode of transportation. In this respect it will be a sort of business aviation master class, with contributions from aircraft manufacturers, finance companies, operators, completions specialists, lawyers and existing customers.
Former NBAA president Jack Olcott is putting together the MEBA agenda and acting as conference chairman. Following initial speeches by Olcott and Royal Jet CEO Chris Crum, the keynote address will be given by the event’s patron, HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of Dubai’s Department of Civil Aviation and of fast-growing Emirates Airline. The conference is also being held under the patronage of Royal Jet chairman HE Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarek Al Nahyan.
As of early last month, at least two major business aircraft manufacturers had signed up as conference sponsors. Further sponsorship opportunities are still open for the event, which is being run by Dubai show organizer Fairs & Exhibitions and is supported by Aviation International News and its sister publication Business Jet Traveler. It will be held at Dubai’s Le Meridien hotel, and more information can be found at www.dubaiairshow.org.
The sponsoring companies will invite the majority of the anticipated 300 conference delegates, most of whom are expected to be current or prospective business aviation customers from the Arabian Gulf states. Royal Jet sales and marketing v-p Ammar Balkar told AIN that the company conceived MEBA as a way of bringing together the emerging new business aircraft users and the service providers seeking to meet rising demand in the Middle East.
The region is already well served by airline conferences but has not previously had its own business aviation gathering. The past few years have seen growing numbers of Middle Eastern visitors and exhibitors at the annual European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva. At the same time, the biennial Dubai Air Show has attracted more and more business aviation manufacturers and service providers.
According to Balkar, business people and private individuals in the Middle East are increasingly attracted to the idea of using business aircraft. Their main motives are the desire for privacy and security, as well as more efficient trips than can be achieved with somewhat limited regional air services. He said that these people often raise fundamental questions such as whether they are even permitted to own private aircraft, and MEBA will seek to address just such concerns.
Balkar told AIN that conditions for owning and operating business aircraft in the Middle East are not as restrictive as many people imagine. Private aircraft ownership is certainly permitted in the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part), and in many other neighboring states. At the same time, local financial institutions, such as the Abu Dhabi-based First Gulf Bank, are increasingly willing to put together funding packages to buy aircraft.
What’s more, Balkar added, the newcomers are taking a more pragmatic approach to business aviation by contemplating options such as aircraft management, charter and fractional ownership. Business aviation in the Middle East, in his view, is moving away from the stereotypical money-no-object royal barge. Many local people want to use business aircraft in as low-profile a way as possible.
For the time being, many Arab-owned aircraft are registered in other countries. Balkar said that this is often for tax and technical reasons, and he predicted that the registries of Arab states are likely to grow as there is now a stronger case for basing these aircraft in the Middle East, such as opportunities for placing them on the charter market.