The Middle East presents plenty of opportunity for business aviation growth, and at last month’s Abu Dhabi Air Expo businesses reported that their investment in the region–and beyond–is paying dividends.
Emirates of the United Arab Emirates
Gama Group, the fast-growing business aviation services group, is quickly settling into its new base at Sharjah International Airport. The Farnborough, UK-based company is finding that customers now recognize the limitations of Dubai International Airport, which has become increasingly busy with airline traffic, making it hard for business aircraft operators to get convenient slots–especially at short notice. Meanwhile, Gama’s move into Saudi Arabia with new FBOs planned in Jeddah and Riyadh are coming together fast.
Royal Jet, the commercial private jet concern owned by the UAE’s Presidential Flight Authority and Abu Dhabi Aviation, is planning a major fleet expansion in 2013, the year of its 10th anniversary. A defection by the nine-jet company away from Boeing, given that Royal Jet owns the world’s largest Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) fleet–six aircraft–would be a major blow for the U.S. manufacturer.
Fujairah’s business has traditionally been in cement and mining, but ship bunkering has developed into a major industry, general shipping is thriving at Fujairah and Khorfakkan ports, and plans are in full swing to build an oil refinery, increase tank-farm storage facilities and develop tourism and real estate.
Three months after launching scheduled domestic service in the UAE with flights to Sir Bani Yas and Delma Islands from Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport, Rotana Jet extended its offering on September 19 to double-daily Embraer ERJ-145 service from Abu Dhabi International Airport to Fujairah. Exactly a week later, the upstart regional airline started twice-daily flights from Abu Dhabi International to Al Ain.
Undaunted by the dominance of its Dubai and Abu Dhabi “big brothers” in the United Arab Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah is pressing ahead with plans to put itself on the air transport map. After a badly timed false start at the peak of the recent financial crisis, RAK Airways will have been back in business for two years by the end of 2012, and the emirate’s airport is drawing attention for its wide-open capacity and widebodies-welcome 12,332-foot runway.
Aurora Aviation has signed a memorandum of understanding for a partnership agreement to run the first full-service FBO at Fujairah International Airport (FIA) in the United Arab Emirates. “We are looking to make Fujairah our hub,” Aurora CEO Ammar Kutait told AIN.
Fujairah is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, and the only one on the Gulf of Oman on the country’s east coast instead of on the Persian Gulf. A new highway connects it with Dubai.
Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a leading business aviation hub in the Arabian Gulf was further enhanced by the March staging of the inaugural Air Expo. The event, held at the Al Bateen Executive Airport nine months before rival Dubai’s Middle East Business Aviation show, attracted a reported 10,700 visitors and 105 exhibitors.
Regional airline service has been slow to take root in the Middle East, and especially at the entry-level turboprop end of the market. But now, a start-up operator in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is preparing to launch a feeder service to the region’s aspiring hubs in Abu Dhabi and Doha, giving locals the chance to bypass crowded Dubai.
Based in Fujairah, UAE, Eastern Express plans to ferry business passengers into Abu Dhabi and Doha to connect with growing Gulf-based international passenger networks starting during this year’s first quarter.