Elite jets fulfills Arabian promise

 - October 27, 2008, 10:51 AM

Elite Jets Fulfills Arabian Promise
The recently forged alliance between Dubai-based Elite Jets and Jet Aviation is a prime illustration of the increasingly global scale of the executive charter business. Elite Jets has been rising fast over the past couple of years, but the tie-up with one of the leading global players in the aircraft charter/management sector should further boost its ascent. For Jet Aviation, the partnership allows it to expand its Arabian Gulf operations more quickly.

Having entered service with a single Hawker 850XP, Elite Jets has since added a Citation CJ3, a Challenger 604 and a G450. According to president and CEO Ammar Balkar, the company is set to add two more managed aircraft by year-end and aims to increase its fleet to 15 jets by the end of 2010. In his view, there is no prospect of a downturn in the Middle East market, partly because of the incoming tide of oil-derived wealth and also because governments are investing in the infrastructure needed to support growth that has been somewhat artificially constrained.

Some of this growth will come from Arab-owned aircraft managed by Jet Aviation, which will now be moved to Elite Jets’ aircraft operator’s certificate in the United Arab Emirates. Elite Jets recently became the first locally based charter operator in the region to complete the IS-BAO safety accreditation overseen by the International Business Aviation Council.

“The types of aircraft available [for charter] in this region are almost the same so we are trying to create loyalty with a different level of service,” Balkar told AIN. “We respond to requests for quotations within 15 minutes and can dispatch an aircraft within two-and-a-half hours.”

Competition in the Middle East charter business has intensified greatly over the past decade. In 1999 there was effectively only one local operator; now there are at least 22. The customer base for charter in the Middle East also appears to be expanding. “Ten years ago the use of private jets here was almost entirely limited to royalty and heads of state,” explained Balkar. “Here in the UAE only five or six years ago there was just one private owner, and now there are dozens of them.”

According to Balkar, rising fuel prices have done nothing to dampen demand for charter flights. He argued that if anything, more new customers are trying private charter because fuel costs are raising airline fares proportionately more quickly than charter ratesDemand may be rising, but things could be better, however. Balkar said that there is still a serious lack of dedicated airport infrastructure and that handling-agent monopolies need to be broken up to ensure better service levels.