One sign of the vitality of the Middle East’s business aviation market here at MEBA 2014 in Dubai is the presence of the region’s leading commercial airlines at the show. Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Executive are all exhibiting here at Dubai World Central, eager to showcase their offerings to the business and luxury travel markets.
“When big, game-changing players like Emirates and Etihad get involved, you know things are going to get interesting,” said Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA). “This is a real testimony that our hard work at MEBAA is paying off. The commercial airlines want to attend to get a better understanding of the region’s private and business aviation market.”
Renowned as a driving force in encouraging a strong regulatory framework and industry guidelines for regional best practices, Al Naqbi anticipates some 1,200 business aircraft will be registered in the region by 2020. The airlines clearly would like to divert some of that demand to their scheduled services and are enhancing their offerings to appeal to the business aviation demographic.
Etihad Airways (Stand 836), which has been increasing its first-class offerings recently, has staked its claim to the market with its launch of “The Residence by Etihad,” three-room suites on its new Airbus A380s. Etihad is featuring here at the show a full-scale mock-up of the new suites. The 125-square-foot cabin for single or double occupancy includes a lounge, a shower area and bedroom with double bed. Passengers will be attended by “flying butlers” trained at London’s Savoy Hotel. The first of the airline’s Residence-equipped A380s is scheduled to enter service between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow on December 27.
The Etihad stand also features the First Apartments, which will include a reclining armchair and full-length ottoman that converts into a bed. These will be installed on the upper deck of the A380. It will be the industry’s only single-aisle first class cabin, according to Etihad. Here at the show, the airline’s representatives are also eager to provide details on the airlines’ latest destinations, including Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, Perth, Phuket, Edinburgh and Hong Kong. Madrid will join the list of new routes in 2015.
Emirates Executive is showcasing at the static display (Stand A1A) an executive-configured A319 airliner that seats 19 and sleeps 15 in 10 private suites. The aircraft has a maximum range of 4,350 miles (7,000 km), and the cabin features amenities including live TV, video conferencing capability, high-speed Internet and mobile phone connectivity.
Qatar Executive (Stand 537) is highlighting its new Bombardier Global 5000 vision, an elegant two-cabin configuration with a separate galley, accommodating up to 13 passengers.