ExecuJet Aviation Group’s Middle East joint venture with Saudi Arabia’s NasJet at the private aviation terminal at King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, which opened less than a year ago, is benefitting from robust levels of business in the Saudi capital, and is likely to continue to see higher levels of aircraft movements than regional hub Dubai, a company official said last month at MEBAC in Riyadh.
ExecuJet opened its Riyadh FBO in partnership with NasJet, the largest private-jet operator in the kingdom, in September and since then has handled 1,000 movements, Mark Hardman, operations director and AOC accountable manager for ExecuJet Middle East, told AIN.
The FBO facilities consist of a crew room and operations and administration offices, all housed in the existing private aviation terminal, but construction of new standalone facilities, or the creation of a new Royal Terminal and conversion of the existing one into a new FBO base, are among the options under consideration to make the facility more appealing to customers.
“I think we are capable of doing something eye-catching for the market. The process here is a bit slow compared to neighboring countries. I think there is big potential there,” said Khalid Al Hai, the UAE national whose family is an investor in ExecuJet Middle East.
Today, Riyadh is the only FBO ExecuJet operates in the kingdom, but the company is looking “at other strategic airports for further expansion. We have [prioritized] training, safety, equipment, operational standards and staff that are focused,” Hardman said.
Growth in Riyadh is eroding Jeddah’s traditional place as the pace-setter for Saudi aviation, according to Hardman. “Today, Riyadh and Jeddah are seeing similar levels of travel, partly because the government is based here. In Riyadh, we are looking at approximately 13,000 movements a year. Jeddah has peaks and lows [driven by seasonality related to religious tourism],” he added.
“For all the business we do in the kingdom, Dubai is really the central base of the whole Middle East operation. Maintenance, aircraft management and charter will go to Dubai. [Riyadh] is a satellite,” said Stutijn van Till, FBO manager at ExecuJet Riyadh. “Saudi is a big market. Dubai’s location serves the rest of the region, including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Lebanon.”