EBACE Convention News

Rizon builds Europe-Middle East air bridge

 - May 11, 2009, 12:52 AM

Rizon Jet, the Arabian Gulf-based aircraft charter and management group, is looking to bridge the European and Middle Eastern markets by establishing new bases at the Qatari capital Doha and London’s Biggin Hill Airport. The company, which originally aspired to a low-cost, light jet business model, is focusing on the higher end of the charter sector. It also wants to exploit the seasonal fluctuations that see large numbers of Middle Eastern travelers flocking north to avoid the heat of the summer months, and Europeans heading in the opposite direction during winter months.

Here at the EBACE show (Booth No. 953) Rizon Jet has announced the appointment of industry veteran Andrew Pearce as its sales and marketing director for Europe. Pearce, who has joined the company from TAG Aviation, will be based at the new $16 million Biggin Hill facility which is due to open in October. He has also previously worked for Twinjet and Marshall Executive Aviation.

The Rizon Jet fleet–most of which is managed on behalf of aircraft owners–currently includes a Bombardier Global XRS, five Challengers, a Cessna Citation Ultra, a Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 900XP and a Premier 1A. Later this month, it is due to receive a second Hawker 900XP, which will be based in Dubai, and in June this will be followed by another Global XRS which will go on the company’s new UK aircraft operator’s certificate. Another Challenger 605 is due for delivery in January 2010.

Rizon also has a new Learjet 85 on order for delivery in 2014 which will replace one of the Hawker 900XPs. Rizon Jet CEO Will Curtis said that he had considered Hawker Beechcraft’s new Hawker 4000 jet as an alternative but concluded that this has been so long in development that it would not deliver as much in the way of technological advancement as Bombardier’s latest Lear.

Reflecting on difficult trading conditions currently being experienced in the aircraft management and charter market, Curtis said that he is carefully staggering the recruitment of staff and spreading costs as it prepares to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2010. He pledged to be very aggressive in pricing charter flights, while warning that some other operators are now facing the prospect of bankruptcy because they have made unrealistic promises to aircraft owners in terms of the amount of charter income they can generate and so are increasingly selling flight hours at below cost levels. Rizon is owned by a Qatari investor and has a debt-to-equity ratio of less than 3 percent.

Curtis also told EBACE Convention News that aircraft owners are becoming more discerning in who they choose to operate their assets, as are the finance companies behind aircraft purchases. “They want to see aircraft placed with competent operators and they won’t tolerate things like chaotic maintenance documents which can cause big problems when an aircraft is sold,” he explained. “There days owners need to consider the financial stability of the management company or they could end up facing bills that have not been paid and even having their aircraft encumbered for up to six months.”

In addition to its Doha and London bases, Rizon also has offices in Bahrain, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Curtis said that while the Gulf market has flattened somewhat due in part to a marked slowdown in the growth of centers such as Dubai, other countries like Qatar are still delivering double-digit growth.