Dubai Airshow

Dubai South FBOs See Big Expo 2020 Traffic Boost

 - November 11, 2021, 5:00 AM
DC Aviation Al Futtaim ranks among Dubai South's premier FBO/MRO facilities. (Photo: DC Aviation Al Futtaim)

DC Aviation Al-Futtaim, one of the leading FBO-MRO facilities at Dubai South (Stand 1090), forecasts an increase in Expo 2020-led business jet traffic of around 20 percent over the October 2021-March 2022 duration of the event, compared with an average winter in Dubai.

Managing director Holger Ostheimer expressed optimism about an upturn. “Looking at Expo-associated activity for the six months of the show, I can see an average movements increase of about 20- to 25 percent, compared to a regular winter season,” he said. “We have been advertising and reaching out to all the various country representations and industrial organizations; if there is an uptick, I'm sure we will benefit from it.”

He believes that by November, a large number of delegations will have reversed earlier plans not to travel to Dubai: “At the turn of the year, ground handling activity saw an unusually high uptick, which carried through to the first quarter of 2021. We had good levels of activity in the second quarter. The third quarter has slowed down a little bit, and we are waiting for people to come back. It may be Expo-related; people who were planning trips to Dubai may have wanted them to coincide with the opening of the show.”

VistaJet COO Ian Moore said the Expo would increase traffic volumes. “We can pick up and drop off clients from all around the world into Dubai and [manage] their return travel,” he said. “That’s going to mean more consistent, higher-level demand over the period. “We don’t expect it to be anything like a Thanksgiving, a Super Bowl, or a Chinese New Year, which causes the industry to really flatten out for a couple of days over a six-month period. I think the entire industry would enjoy having elevated demand over an extended period, but we’re not expecting a spike on a particular day that’s going to drive, at least for our type of fleet and service, huge demand challenges for us.”

Similarly, the FIFA World Cup 2022 taking place from November 21 to December 18, 2022, will put the Middle East at center stage. “The World Cup is an incredibly popular event,” he said. “There’s always the madness of the World Cup final and the flying back and forth. It’s a real challenge for the industry to demonstrate the strength of its logistics, but it’s an incredibly popular event. We see that as being a huge opportunity. The fact that it’s at a different time of the year might also create a more consistent push for fleet utilization over that timeframe. We’re excited with all three events, one, the chance to show our aircraft on the ground and the other, two, being an opportunity to demonstrate what the region can do for both business, and for the sporting arena as well.”

Richard Gaona, executive chairman and CEO of Comlux, confirmed reports that Qatar could have difficulty accommodating the rush of football supporters attending the World Cup. "I’m told by people in Dubai that Qatar does not have enough hotel rooms to cater to everyone," he said. "Many people will be based in Dubai, go for the game, and fly back. DWC is the perfect setup, to be frank. [The VIP Terminal] is the most beautiful FBO in the world, in my opinion. It’s safe, and security checks are easy to carry out. The two FBOs we work with there, Jetex and DC Aviation Al Futtaim, are doing a great job.”

ExecuJet, part of the Luxaviation Group, the second-largest operator of corporate aircraft in the world, is also a strong FBO player in Dubai, having operated out of a makeshift facility at DWC for a number of years, in addition to the FBO from where it also offers MRO at Dubai International.

The company's vice-president for the Middle East, Mike Berry, confirmed to AIN that ExecuJet's new FBO-MRO facility at Dubai South has reached advanced stages of construction under the terms of a contract awarded to the local Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings. The facility, whose completion the company expects in the first half of 2022, will sit to the west of the VIP Terminal apron at Dubai South.

“You will be surprised by what you see," he told AIN. "When we talk about size and what we're going to be offering in the new facility, it's like your wine cellar compared to the palace...It's a massive construction taking shape.”

ExecuJet added a Global 7500 to the regional managed fleet late last year and a Global 6000 earlier this year and opened one of the first-ever FBOs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport in June.

“Late last year we added the Global 7500, which was an upgrade from the Challenger 605,” he said. “Then we added the Turkey-based Global 6000 at the end of the first quarter this year. We've also just brought on board a Legacy 600 for charter.”

“Over the Covid period, unfortunately, we still just had the one aircraft, the Lineage, for charter. We didn't employ it too often, because through the period, like elsewhere in the world, a lot of owners were unwilling to release aircraft for charter. We also just brought a Legacy 600 on; in a few months, we'll understand the charter market a lot better.

“The UAE has done so well throughout Covid, keeping their borders open, that in terms of our FBO business and charters visiting Dubai, we've done pretty well, much better than expected,” Berry said. “On the management side, we had a lot of aircraft that were down, not flying during Covid, but they've all come back into line now as borders have opened. The outlook is a little bit rosier, I think going into 2022, than what I was thinking back in 2019.”

In September, Abu Dhabi Aviation announced a takeover bid for Falcon Aviation, the other main helicopter player in the UAE capital. Falcon Aviation opened its first FBO at the VIP Terminal in Dubai South in 2017, but in January of this year, Jetex announced that it had signed an agreement with Falcon to take over management of the FBO as a crew lounge, as well as the associated MRO hangar at the site.

In March, Jet Aviation announced it had received its Part 125 operator’s certificate from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in Saudi Arabia.

Following recommendations by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for the promotion of safe flight operations, GACA required all operators of private aircraft based in Saudi Arabia to obtain a GACA-approved (Part 125) operator’s certificate, the company said.

Jet Aviation operates FBOs in Jeddah, Riyadh, Medina, and Yanbu, all of which are IS-BAH Stage II registered except its newest in Yanbu, which earned IS-BAH Stage I in December 2020.