Qatar begins Middle East charter ops

 - July 28, 2009, 8:19 AM

Qatar Airways is getting into the private charter business with the launch of its Qatar Executive subsidiary. The new operation, which will be based at Doha International Airport, took delivery of two new Bombardier Challenger 605s in June. The fleet also includes a Challenger 300.

With a 4,000-nm range, the 605s will be able to offer nonstop service anywhere in the Middle East and into Asia, Europe and Africa. The Challenger 300 and 605 accommodate up to eight and 11 passengers, respectively, with fully reclining seats that can be configured as individual sleeping compartments.

According to Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, there is still rising demand for business aircraft in the Middle East, and Qatar Executive is a key part of the carrier’s strategy of serving the premium passenger market segment. The airline is one of the fastest growing in the world today, with more than $40 billion worth of new aircraft on order and a $15 billion development under way to build a new airport for the Gulf state’s capital, Doha, and to upgrade the existing gateway. Qatar Executive customers will be able to use the airport’s VIP terminal.

According to data from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, the Middle East business aviation market has grown by an average of 13 percent each year since 2000. Individual wealth within the Gulf region is expected to grow by more than 50 percent during the 2008 to 2012 period, up from a collective total of $2.1 trillion to around $3.8 trillion, according to statistics provided by international management consultancy Oliver Wyman. “Forecast growth in the Middle East corporate market is expected to be between 15 and 20 percent until 2012,” said Al Baker.

Meanwhile, Qatar has also attracted rival charter operator Rizon Jet, which has relocated its headquarters from Bahrain to Doha. Last month, Rizon was granted a Qatari aircraft operator’s certificate. Most of Rizon’s fleet is operated under management contracts and it currently includes two Bombardier Global XRSs, five Challengers, a Cessna Citation Ultra, two Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 900XPs and a Premier IA. The company has a new Learjet 85 on order for delivery in 2014.

Rizon will continue to have offices in Bahrain, as well as at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.