Gama Aviation’s FBO at Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) witnessed 70-percent growth in traffic last year and is anticipating similar growth this year. To keep pace with demand, during the second quarter of this year the company expects to complete development of new passenger and crew lounges. It is also set to double staffing levels at the facility by the end of next month.
“The year so far has started well,” said Richard Lineveldt, Gama’s general manager in Sharjah. He added, “We’ve been working for the last two years as the exclusive FBO at the airport. We’ve managed to streamline the service. All our [charter/management] aircraft are based in Sharjah, except one, which is based at Al Bateen [in Abu Dhabi].”
The new FBO has helped make Sharjah International Airport a business aviation hub for the UAE. According to Lineveldt, operators are increasingly coming to view the airport as an alternative to busy Dubai International Airport (DXB), which is set to see its capacity further squeezed by an 80-day runway closure beginning May 1.
“Some 1,000 movements at DXB need to move over to Dubai World Central or Sharjah. That’s why we are proposing Sharjah as a viable option for people,” he said. “The reason they are there is the convenience of it. Dubai-based businesses and companies are seeking extra convenience.”
Lineveldt said the FBO, now combined with hangars and MRO, is providing people with options. “We are in the final stages of preparing to start construction on a dedicated FBO terminal. This should be done in time for the DXB closures. We are refurbishing one hangar at the moment, to expedite MRO activities.” The company has two hangars and is planning to begin construction of another this month.
“There is a lot of parking available. We’ve got dedicated ramp space for business jets in Sharjah, and good relations with the catering company at Sharjah International Airport, as well as the fueling company. This is critical as these are the services that can add delays if the airport is busy.”
Saudi Arabia remains a focus for Gama’s activities. “We don’t have a Saudi FBO at the moment. We opened an office in Jeddah in 2012 that is active. We are seeking to improve management, the business and the fleet through that.”
Despite Gama’s business focus on Sharjah, Lineveldt does not rule out the long-term possibility of a presence at Dubai World Central. Gama “absolutely will” be involved there eventually, as it would be “short-sighted to focus on Sharjah. We don’t see that happening as quickly as we would like. We’ll definitely work with Dubai Airports to see if we can get some space.”