Marwan Khalek, group CEO of London-based Gama Aviation Ltd. (Booth P501), sees China as the next growth opportunity for his global charter and management company.
“We have a two-pronged strategy for the region,” Khalek told AIN here at ABACE 2014. “One is our Hong Kong operation [established in 2012] and one is Mainland China, and we’re making good progress on both.” The company has signed a business cooperation agreement with a Beijing entity that would open the way for a China base, he said. Khalek added that Gama expects to make a formal announcement about the deal by the end of this year. “The cake is in the oven and baking.”
Here in Shanghai at ABACE 2014, Khalek continued, “We want to let customers and the industry know we’re here, and we mean to do business here. We want to make people aware of not just our Asian operation, but to use that as a point of contact to make people aware of what our global presence is.”
Founded in 1983, Gama has expanded its presence substantially since taking on Growthgate Capital of Bahrain as an equity partner in 2008. The company now manages 90 to 95 aircraft, ranging from King Airs to Gulfstreams that are based at some 25 locations on four continents, and employs more than 500 people. The company’s line-maintenance business more than doubled in 2013, with similar growth expected this year. Additionally, its new FBOs at Sharjah, UAE, and Glasgow, Scotland, are “up and running.”
The Chinese market for business aircraft faces significant challenges, Khalek said. “The constraint of growth in the region at the moment is not demand, it’s [the lack of] infrastructure to service that demand.” He added that the current multi-day approval process for flights “removes the cornerstone of what this product is about.”
As for hopes of loosening the current strictures on private aviation activity in China, Khalek said, “It can happen very easily with the strike of a pen at the right levels of government. It’s just a matter of the political will to do it. The benefits of business aviation are becoming more recognized in the region. They’re understanding it’s about productivity, not luxury.”