The new business aviation enclave at Dubai International Airport (DXB) is taking shape, and the first facilities were due to open by the end of last month. A new VIP terminal, to be run by the airport’s own Executive Flight Services (EFS), is due to open by year-end. Three independent service companies–Jet Aviation, ExecuJet Aviation and Wallan Aviation–will have adjoining hangars and offices at the airport.
The new FBO complex is located next to the fast-growing airport’s international free zone on the other side of the site from the main passenger terminals. EFS will be the main handling company for business aircraft, focusing primarily on VIP service.
The aircraft parking ramp was finished in January and the first of the hangars, which will be used by Jet Aviation, was scheduled to be ready by the end of last month. The whole development for the project is nearly a year behind schedule.
Jet Aviation’s new maintenance base in Dubai will be able to accommodate two Boeing Business Jets simultaneously and will supplement the facility the company already operates in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Jet Aviation specializes in Hawkers, Gulfstreams and Dassault Falcons and does warranty work on the charter fleet of Saudi Arabian operator National Air Services, the operating partner for the NetJets Middle East fractional-ownership program. The Dubai facility will provide C-check capability on all the above types, as well as on the Bombardier Global Express.
Jet Aviation is building its facility with local partner the Almulla group, a Dubai-based property and telecommunications firm. In addition to the maintenance operation, the facility will include an FBO providing executive/VIP handling. Jet Aviation also operates an FBO in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and it is beginning construction of a major new FBO at Kuwait International Airport this year.
Meanwhile, ExecuJet is working with Bombardier to establish a service and spare parts center for the Canadian manufacturer in DXB’s new business aviation area. The facility will be able to perform overhauls up to the level of C-checks for both Learjets and Challengers. It will also work on Pilatus PC-12 turboprop singles and provide line maintenance for other corporate types.
ExecuJet Middle East recently added a Global Express to its Dubai-based charter fleet. The new facility, due to open in June, will have dual maintenance bays able to accommodate a pair of the large, long-range jets simultaneously.
The company is Bombardier’s Learjet sales representative for 10 Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It is also the PC-12 distributor in the same region.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Wallan Aviation is Cessna’s main Middle Eastern sales representative. Its territory covers Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Jordan and several other neighboring states.
An Improving Market
EFS has been the sole provider of business aircraft handling out of the existing Al Majlis (the Arab word for traditional reception room) terminal at DXB, which opened in 1998 and received around 40,000 executive and VIP passengers last year. Last year it saw a 12-percent increase in traffic, handling 3,940 aircraft, compared with 3,518 the previous year. The 2003 figures include 300 movements during the week of the Dubai Air Show in December of that year, compared with 130 at the 2001 show. Annual business aviation movements at DXB have increased significantly over the past few years, from 1,852 in 2001 and 2,422 in 2002 to nearly 4,000 last year.
There are currently around seven business aircraft permanently based in Dubai, operated by companies such as ExecuJet and Elite Jets. Demand for executive charter is growing in the Middle East, and particularly in the Gulf states.
International Air Charter, a UK-based executive charter broker, opened an office in Dubai three years ago, and the facility grew 30 percent last year. “The air-charter industry in the Middle East has witnessed exceptional growth over the past couple of years,” said the firm’s chief executive, Hugh Courtenay. “New operators in the market have fueled awareness about, and subsequently demand for, these services.” Air Partner International, another major charter brokering group, also has an office in Dubai.
Executive Services at DBX
In addition to providing standard aircraft handling services, EFS also offers a number of services to executive travelers. For example, the company arranges limousine transportation or car rentals, offers special corporate rates at leading hotels in the United Arab Emirates, accompanies clients through customs and immigration and can arrange visas. It also organizes business and ambulance charters (fixed-wing and helicopter) and demonstration flights for those interested in purchasing their own aircraft.
In addition to its VIP and official government role, the Al Majlis facility is also available for use by local companies and private citizens. This currently costs $410 per party for up to 10 business aircraft passengers. First-time users must register with the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation’s protocol and public relations division at least 24 hours in advance.
Airline passengers can also pay to use the Al Majlis terminal. In this case they are transferred to and from the main Sheikh Rashid airport terminal in limousines when they arrive or depart. Departing passengers need not report to the terminal until 45 minutes before their scheduled flight as long as a representative brings their luggage, passport and tickets at least an hour-and-a-half before their flight’s departure time.
The increasing number of passengers and the encroachment of Emirates Airline Flight Catering facility mean that Al Majlis must move to a larger site closer to the Dubai Air Show site, making it more accessible to the new Emirates passenger terminal under construction.
Not content with one major international gateway, the Dubai government has started construction of a completely new airport at the Jebel Ali free trade zone 25 miles from DXB (which itself is almost in downtown Dubai). Eventually the new airport will boast up to six runways and multiple terminals for both cargo and passenger flights. There are plans for it to include dedicated business aviation facilities, but the exact details have not yet been decided.
The new International Airport City complex at Jebel Ali will cover 54 square miles and include several specialized centers that will cater to financial, industrial, logistics, service and tourism businesses connected to the aviation industry, as well as a residential quarter.
The project will be completed in phases, with the first facilities available from next year. Initially the focus will be on freight requirements and the airport will open with just one runway. When completed, the Jebel Ali airport will have the capacity to handle 120 million passengers and 12 million metric tons of cargo annually.