Dubai-based Jetex recorded growth of more than 100 percent in traffic related to its U.S. trip-planning business in the first eight months of 2021 versus the same period in 2019, founder and CEO Adel Mardini told AIN on the eve of NBAA-BACE 2021. He also expressed satisfaction that NBAA-BACE is finally taking place after the pandemic caused the show to be canceled last year, noting NBAA-BACE 2021 is “the first major, in-person aviation event in the U.S. in almost two years.”
According to Mardini, “We will certainly see sustained growth this year. We focus a lot on the Caribbean, Latin America, and Canada. These destinations are the opposite of the Middle East, where summer is traditionally slow. In the Americas, summer is busy because of all the leisure destinations.”
Thought Jetex does not operate an FBO in Miami, it does host its U.S. operations center there. It works closely with its FBO partners and offers a wide range of trip-planning services out of this office for travel within the U.S. and to the Caribbean and Latin America. The company intends to expand in North America by increasing capacity at the Miami center, where a team of more than 30 is based.
“We are looking to increase our footprint in the U.S. in terms of brand awareness, by promoting Jetex as a leading provider of fuel and trip support. We are also expanding our network in Latin America…and are also looking to add Uruguay and Ecuador to our network, among other destinations.”
On the FBO side of the business, Jetex's flagship Dubai VIP terminal saw a robust first half, with more than 5,000 movements—an increase of over 400 percent from the drop in numbers caused by a near-total global shutdown in second-quarter 2020. Despite that setback, movements at Jetex Dubai were up 300 percent for all of 2020.
“We believe that 2020 was the virus year, 2021 is the vaccine year, and we are optimistic that 2022 will be the recovery year,” Mardini said.
Today, Jetex has 37 FBO locations and three operation centers—in Dubai, Beijing, and Miami. Earlier this year, it announced plans to open FBOs in Argentina, Colombia, and Peru. Mardini said a Caribbean location will soon be announced.
“We are working to expand the Jetex network in Latin America,” he said. “Our research confirms that the majority of U.S. travelers plan additional trips to the Caribbean and Latin America. As a result, we are building a strong network across the two regions to offer new services related to trip planning and support for the American customer. It remains our priority for the rest of the year.”
Mardini said Jetex still plans to become the leading global FBO operator outside the Americas. “Absolutely, this is our ambition,” he said. However, he said, that doesn't preclude Jetex from trying to open FBOs in the U.S.
“The market in the U.S. requires a particular network—one Jetex FBO would not be truly competitive,” Mardini said. “If you follow the latest acquisitions happening in the market, including those of Atlantic or Signature by private equity firms, this is an indication that private funds will invest money to acquire more FBOs, and I expect this trend to accelerate. Private investors do not necessarily have a good understanding of our business—they consider it as real estate, buying airport slots.”
Mardini is targeting the entire market in the U.S. “Clients use anything from Beechcraft jets to the Gulfstream G650 and the Bombardier Global 7500,” he said, adding that the company’s primary focus was on general aviation—both aircraft owners and operators.
“Charter demand has certainly increased as a result of the health crisis. Sometimes it is challenging to find a particular aircraft type for charter in the U.S. today. Charter sales increased more than 20 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, with almost 70 percent of these flights being arranged for our clients.”
Mardini said people have begun traveling more and also that he witnessed new customers shifting to private aviation from first and business class.
“Operators are exceptionally busy as well. In the past, they used to fly 60 hours a month—this has now increased to more than 100 hours,” he said. “Because of the restrictions related to Covid-19, many travelers are still uncomfortable flying on the airlines. As I mentioned before, flying by private jet was once a luxury—today, it is a necessity and a matter of safety.
“In the end, it is the passenger who decides which operator to charter and which service to use,” Mardini said. “Flying private means paying $7,000 to $10,000 an hour, and we respect our passengers’ time. Jetex created a unique model where we merged top aviation professionals with luxury hospitality expertise—and we see a growing number of passengers willing to pay for the right service.”