Diplomacy, patience, and determination are qualities Julian Pitaresi will need to display if he is to achieve his mission. Appointed Morocco stations manager in 2016 by Dubai-based Jetex Flight Support, the Frenchman's role will be to successfully roll out five new Jetex FBOs in the kingdom.
As one of three new FBOs that are to be built from scratch, he sees the Marrakech facility as the likely bellwether of Jetex's Morocco fortunes. "We opened a temporary facility at Marrakech in 2016," he told AIN in an interview earlier this year. In Casablanca, along with a complex provided by the Moroccan Airports Authority (ONDA) in the capital Rabat, Jetex opened an already constructed facility after its refurbishment. The Marrakech facility is expected to open in the third quarter of 2019.
Of Jetex’s five FBO locations, Rabat is Morocco’s diplomatic capital, while Casablanca is the business capital. Marrakech, Agadir, and Dakhla are aimed at leisure travelers. A good deal of construction is taking place in Marrakech, and people who used to come for leisure are often focusing on projects there.
Jetex inherited a building in Casablanca from ONDA and now shares it with Swissport Maroc SA, which signed up, alongside Jetex, to develop four FBOs in Morocco, at Casablanca, Marrakech, Rabat, Tangier.
“Jetex…first came [into Morocco] in Casablanca,” he said. “The FBO site was already in existence. Our site is a bit small but can handle 16 to 18 people. At Jetex’s Casablanca FBO, there is a VIP lounge, as well as an operations office. Six people work there 24/7. There are also a crew lounge and limousine services. We opened a temporary facility at Marrakech in 2016, but we have been building a new facility for two years now there, expected to open before the end of 2019.”
When compared to Dubai, which has 140 five-star hotels, according to booking.com, Marrakech, with only 55, is not quite in the same league. However, the resort is regarded as Morocco's upmarket tourism Mecca. Pitaresi said the resort accounted for almost 50 percent of Morocco's 8,000-10,000 bizjet movements in 2018, up from 40 percent in 2016. Rabat is a diplomatic hotspot for government aircraft.
President and CEO, Adel Mardini told AIN there was a need for a higher-level VIP service in Morocco, a gap Jetex came in to fill. Services were being provided by local supervisory companies who contracted the work to commercial airlines. “The creation of an FBO and the provision of a high-quality service have encouraged the registration of more private jets in the country. We expect the number of registered aircraft to increase even more when we open the new facility in Marrakech,” Mardini said.
In its latest announcement April 14, Jetex said a third location would open in Japan at Kansai International Airport, the official airport of the G20 Global Summit to be held in June. “We have been operating in Narita and Haneda Airports since 2015 and believe Kansai to be a strategic addition based on the impressive 31.5 percent growth over the last 18 months,” said Mardini. Kansai is the latest addition to the existing Jetex portfolio of 56 operational or planned locations in 26 countries. Pitaresi said 25 are now open around the world, a recent addition being Abidjan, in Côte d'Ivoire.
He confirmed that he thought it unlikely that Tit Mellil, located between Casablanca and Rabat and which the Moroccan government is developing as an executive airport, would open much before the originally planned date of 2025. “Access to Casablanca is sometimes difficult. The Moroccan government has developed a general aviation airport at Tit Mellil, similar to Le Bourget in Paris. But the runways are short and the approach difficult. Development will take a long time and I don’t think it will be available before the advertised date of 2025. Honestly, it won’t be possible before 2025,” he said.
Morocco is understood to play host to a small but growing number of high-net-worth individuals who operate their own aircraft, small charter players Air Ocean Maroc and Alfa Air, as well as major helicopter player, Marrakech-based Heliconia Aero Solutions, part of the Heliconia Group, which also operates an offshore oil-and-gas subsidiary, an MRO facility and units in France and Senegal.
The government sees introducing international FBO expertise as likely to stimulate business aviation, and the third biennial Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Show Morocco, on September 25-26, will be further evidence of Morocco’s hub status in Africa. For Pitaresi, the equation is simpler: “We want to improve service [and] provide a high standard. We are receiving good assistance from the government. If we succeed in Marrakech, we will succeed in Morocco,” he concluded.