Royal Jet, the Abu Dhabi-based jet charter company, announced yesterday a decision to completely renew its fleet by 2020. The company has been exploring options with various OEMs for the past 12 months, but is expected to remain a key Boeing Business Jet customer.
Although charter providers form an important part of the Middle East aviation market they have faced tough times in recent years, unlike the region’s royal flights. “Royalty always had money and always will have money,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for Teal Group, of Fairfax, Virginia. “The entrepreneur class that was growing has obviously been hit by the downturn, though,” he added.
Abu Dhabi’s Royal Jet, the commercial luxury private-jet operator, is to issue an RFP for the replacement of six Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) aircraft within the next two months, as it seeks to expand regional charter operations in the Middle East, Africa and beyond.
Business aviation is set to make a strong showing at next month’s Dubai Airshow, with the sector expected to account for as many as 50 of the 150 aircraft anticipated on the static display and around 220 of the exhibiting companies. In addition to all the main airframers, bizav service providers such as Jet Aviation, ExecuJet Aviation, Royal Jet and Jetex are booked to exhibit at the event.
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.
Royal Jet will celebrate its tenth anniversary next May, and the company is reporting significant growth and its busiest year so far. Last year Royal Jet operated 3,135 flights to 370 cities in 136 countries, and this year already is set to exceed this figure. Revenues in the first quarter of 2012 were up 15 percent, while the company’s summer performance saw a 19-percent increase in flying hours over the same period in 2011.
Ali Al Naqbi has been at the heart of business aviation developments in the Middle East for more than a decade, playing a central role in the formation of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), of which he is chairman. This role followed three years as managing director of Abu Dhabi-based aircraft charter and management group Royal Jet. Previously, for almost 20 years, he had been with Abu Dhabi’s Amiri flight, from which Royal Jet was formed.
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.
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.
Royal Jet president and CEO Shane O’Hare is predicting that the Middle East market for private jet travel could grow at 6 to 8 percent this year and next, with Royal Jet itself forecasting 15-percent growth this year. He also said the growth of the private jet market could spawn the development of global alliances among operators, along similar lines to those in the airline sector. The Abu Dhabi-based flight services company reported a 15-percent increase in first-quarter revenue from a year ago.