Bexair rides high on Gulf charter boom

 - July 31, 2007, 12:14 PM

Bexair, the Bahrain-based executive charter firm, is set to take the size of its fleet into double digits with an order for a new Bombardier Challenger 605. The company is also preparing to open several new international bases and wants to develop
as a business aviation services group.

The new Challenger–expected to be delivered in July 2009–will be managed for a private owner. Meanwhile, Bexair–which operates five of its existing nine jets on behalf of management clients–is now helping another prospective owner decide between purchasing a new midsize or large-cabin jet that would bring its total fleet to 11 aircraft.

The current fleet consists of four Bombardier Challengers–three 604s and a 601. The company also operates a pair of Embraer Legacy 600s, as well as two Cessna Citation XLSes and a Citation Excel. One of the Legacys is operated on behalf of the Kuwait-based Middle Eastern subsidiary of major international telecommunications group Vodafone.

Bexair chief of marketing and strategy Faisal Alam told AIN that each of its aircraft is averaging as many as 1,200 flight hours per year in the fast-growing Arabian Gulf market for business and private charter. According to Bombardier, this high utilization rate is close to that achieved by aircraft in its Flexjet fractional ownership program.

The growth in Bexair’s charter business has been driven entirely by demand for flights by private individuals and local and international businesses. The company does not do any flying for the region’s royal families. Alam said that this is consistent with how the Middle East charter market is diversifying its customer base.

In addition to flights within the Gulf region, many of Bexair’s flights are now to North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, where Arab business people are increasingly making substantial investments. The operator also flies a lot of individuals to popular vacation destinations such as the Indian Ocean islands
of the Seychelles, the Maldives and to Malaysian destinations.

The increasing international profile of Bexair’s operations has led it to expand beyond Bahrain. It intends to open an office in Dubai by the end of this month, and it has plans for bases in Europe and Saudi Arabia. At any given time, at least two of its aircraft are located in Europe. Switzerland and the UK are considered likely bases for its operations there.

The next step for Bexair is to open a maintenance facility, and it has the support of the Bahraini government to build a new hangar at Bahrain International Airport. In conjunction with FlightSafety International, the company recently conducted in-house maintenance training for the Legacy 600s, involving both its own mechanics and those of other operators in the region.

Bexair intends to become an authorized service center for a major business aircraft manufacturer. It also wants to make itself more self-sufficient in terms of maintenance support and avoid the need always to fly its aircraft to Europe for service and support.

Since 2002, Bexair has operated a full-service FBO in Bahrain–one of few such facilities in the Gulf states that is not either owned by a government or by a foreign service group, such as Jet Aviation. In May it announced plans to invest another $10 million in developing the FBO, which had handled all traffic associated with the Bahrain Grand Prix auto race in April.

Bexair works closely with its sister financing arm, Aaelco (Arabian Aircraft and Equipment Leasing Company), to set up financing for new business aircraft owners. According to Bexair vice president Marwan Al-Tassan, Aaelco can provide less expensive cash than conventional banks, mainly through various lease and financing packages.