New business announced on the first day of MEBA 2008 vastly exceeded expectations with fast-approaching $2 billion worth of new aircraft orders announced in just a few hours yesterday. The sales stampede has set MEBA on course to become the true fulcrum for the world’s fastest growing business aviation marketplace.
HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Economy and Chairman of its General Civil Aviation Authority, officially opened MEBA 2008 yesterday morning, before making a tour of the exhibit halls and static display of aircraft. He took the place of HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the show’s royal patron of MEBA 2008, who was expected to open this show, but who was unavoidably delayed in the U.S. Sheikh Ahmed is still expected to visit the show before it ends on Tuesday, according to Ali Al Naqbi, chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association.
Al Mansouri, also speaking before the ribbon cutting, said, “This is a difficult time for all of us, especially the aviation business. But I am very optimistic and I think the statistics about the show given by Mr. Ali really give us some optimism in the current dark situation of the world economy. Less than 20 years ago, business aviation was generally conceived as a corporate status symbol, but as you all know, that is not the case today. Aircraft have become a special tool in business travel. Today corporations of different sizes, individuals and business owners use aircraft as a tool in their daily operations of their businesses. Many of the largest corporations in the world maintain their own fleets of aircraft. But many other companies benefit from business aviation by chartering, leasing, time-sharing and fractional ownership.
“Today there are approximately 4,900 companies that own more than 6,000 business aircraft around the world,” Al Mansouri continued. “The Middle East region–and the Gulf States, in particular– represent a healthy market for business aircraft. Business aviation traffic in the UAE has had healthy growth and is now estimated at more than 1,300 movements per month.”
The government minister said that the open-sky policy of the UAE and investments in airports and navigation infrastructure provide the business aviation sector with many economic benefits and will help it grow further in the region. “While it is possible that the current global economic slowdown will have an impact on the aviation sector,” Al Mansouri said, “I believe that the GCC region is now emerging as a powerful economic bloc of some $1 trillion. As the Middle East becomes the focus of the global market, demand for aviation services will increase. The private jet industries and services are currently worth around $500 million in the region. This is expected to grow to $800 million in 2012.”