The recently appointed head of Saudi Arabia-based luxury charter firm Saudia Private Aviation (SPA) said Middle East charter demand growth stood at 8 percent this year, exceeding the worldwide industry figure, but behind Russia, India and the Asia Pacific region.
Faisal G. Kayal, managing director of SPA, said the region is witnessing “strong economic growth.” Kayal replaced Wajdi Al Idrissi, the former head of the company, in May.
He said that SPA’s new five-year plan, now underway, will focus on bridging the gap in the company’s fleet, which currently includes the Dassault Falcon 7X and the light Hawker 400XP. Although he would not divulge details about manufacturers or timeframes being considered, he said, “We are looking at something to go in between [the two aircraft in terms of size].”
The company recently celebrated the soft launch of its new FBO in Jeddah, a facility he said will be fully operational in the first quarter of 2014. Similar amenities are also planned at Riyadh and Dammam, but Kayal refused to put a timeframe on when these would open. “We want to provide the same product in Riyadh and Dammam,” he said.
Kayal explained that SPA is also in negotiations with developers at Medinah Airport “about what the FBO [there] would look like.” Religious tourism, including ferrying pilgrims to the annual hajj, is a growing facet of the company’s business.
Kayal would not divulge plans to expand the fleet beyond saying that the company was considering taking new aircraft under management. “There are over 400 aircraft in the region,” he said. “If you look at the regional fleet, it’s relatively young.” This is an indication that operators are frequently upgrading their fleets.
Government, royal family, high-net-worth individuals, travel agents and brokers are the main source of charters for the company, and there is frequent crossover between SPA and Saudi Arabian Airlines, the kingdom’s scheduled carrier.