Here at the MEBA show, Royal Jet is expected to announce plans to further increase its fleet. The Abu Dhabi-based company is likely to commit to more aircraft in both the VIP airliner and super-midsize classes. It may also confirm plans to establish one or more new bases in the Gulf region to address a shortage of FBO and maintenance facilities, as well as introducing other new services.
According to Royal Jet vice president John Morgan, the company has been riding a strong wave of business aviation market growth, with revenues increasing by as much as 25 to 30 percent in recent years. He estimates the executive/VIP charter market in the Middle East to be worth about $500 million each year and said Royal Jet currently has about a 16-percent slice of this pie.
Morgan also said the number of aircraft using the full-service handling provided at Royal Jet’s executive terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport grew by as much as 90 percent last year. The FBO now receives an average of some 200 movements each month, a figure that is expected to continue to grow at an impressive rate. Royal Jet is considering setting up another base at Abu Dhabi’s downtown Al Bateen Airport, which now is open to business aircraft (see page 18).
New business aircraft are being delivered at an increasing rate to customers here in the Middle East and many of them are entering charter service. Despite the increased supply, Royal Jet reported that rising demand has kept charter rates up.
From the company’s perspective, the Middle East market has so far shown itself to be isolated from the threat of downturn resulting from the international financial crisis.
According to Morgan, success in this market means delivering and sustaining “incredibly high” levels of service. “The keys to this are personal attention, flexibility and showing respect and discretion to our guests, who are used to a very high standard of living in every respect,” he told MEBA Convention News.
Royal Jet (Chalet No. 37) has a good background for dealing with this caliber of client since its roots are in Abu Dhabi’s head-of-state Amiri Flight. During October, no fewer than three heads of state flew with the operator. The company is jointly owned by Abu Dhabi Aviation and the Amiri Flight and is chaired by HE Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, who serves as a minister in the federal cabinet of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The company is also distinguished by being the world’s largest operator of the Boeing Business Jet, which it is planning to refurbish. In addition to the five BBJs, its current fleet includes a pair of Gulfstream G300s, a GIV-SP, a Bombardier Learjet 60 and a BAE Systems Avro RJ85. It owns seven of its 10-strong fleet and manages the other three aircraft for their owners.
In addition to the UAE, Morgan also identified Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar as strong centers of business aviation growth in the Middle East. Royal Jet recently scrapped positioning flight costs for charter customers booking flights out of the Saudi cities of Jeddah and Riyadh. The company is also seeing rising demand for flights into India, China, Russia and various parts of the former Soviet Union.
Royal Jet recently launched a new program to recruit more local Emirati graduates to work for it in fields such as information technology, engineering, marketing, human resources and sales. The operator, which has run work-experience projects for local students, employs some Emirati pilots and would like to attract more to its ranks. It has short-listed candidates from the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Universities and will soon be offering one-year training programs to some of these students.