Dubai-based aviation services provider Hadid International Services sees plenty of opportunity in the UAE, Pakistan, and Africa but fears that Brexit uncertainty could have lingering adverse effects, even though the broader European business aviation sector remains stable. The Dubai market had faced recent challenges, but there are strong indications that a recovery is already underway. “As expected, there was a lull in momentum at the start of 2019,” said commercial director Issa Zuriqi.
“We have seen positive changes toward the end of the first quarter, and we remain confident of the upswing. Business indicators show improvement. I think it’s all connected with large-scale projects and the highly anticipated Expo 2020 [in Dubai]. We have a number of corporate clients in Dubai that started flying out [here]. Overall, local business is improving in terms of general aviation, and hopefully, we will see some more business coming in. The indicators are certainly moving in the right direction.”
Zuriqi said the closure of a runway at Dubai International Airport (DXB) for 45 days from April 16 would encourage new operators to test operations into Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC). “The southern runway at Dubai International Airport is closed between mid-April and late May,” he said. “Fewer flights will land at DXB. I think it's a good chance for operators to try DWC. It’s likely that movements will again increase during the Expo.”
In Africa, a continent that is important to Hadid’s business, Zuriqi said new operators are starting to emerge. “More recently, we have seen a couple of new operators in Northern Africa, specifically Morocco. There is a considerable amount of interest across Africa, especially with regards to cargo and manufacturing projects. We are serving both commercial and non-commercial operators into Africa from across the globe. There is a high degree of market discovery. I would say in general, it's promising.”
In addition to general market uncertainty, Europe is experiencing a crisis of confidence over Brexit. “There is a lot of uncertainty within the aviation industry about the potential impact of Brexit,” he said.
“I think partly [this is] because operators could be restricted on where they can fly. Potential changes to the Open Skies Agreement could have all sorts of implications for operators. For the most part, Europe remains a relatively stable market. We are expanding our European presence and will continue to participate in trade shows and exhibit at major business aviation events such as EBACE.”
Plans are also underway to open an office at Paris Le Bourget Airport. “We are looking into new locations where we can extend the Hadid network and offer real value,” he said. “In Italy, for example, we announced the Executive Aviation Terminal at Riviera Airport [last year]. It is currently the only airport in Italy exclusively dedicated to general aviation. We see it as the ‘gateway to Monaco’ due to its proximity.”
Another country in the region opening up to business aviation is Pakistan, he said, which is proving to be a good market for Hadid, after it opened a new FBO at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi in 2018. “Pakistan offers visas on arrival for a wide range of nationalities, and this is advantageous for us,” he said. “Our Karachi facility sees a large number of international and domestic private jet flights on a monthly basis. It’s certainly a different market to, say, the UAE.”
Recent events forced the closure of Pakistan’s airspace and Flight Information Region, affecting operators. “Many had to reroute, which kept our teams busy,” he said. “Adversity creates opportunity. Operators need new clearances, route analyses, fueling, and so on, which is where we come in.
“In terms of future plans, we are working on facilities in other parts of the country. Islamabad is promising. Gwadar is another option. [It is] quieter, but still lucrative, so we are looking into [it] as well.”