As the first day of the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) Dubai 2012 event takes place at Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, a flurry of business jet operators are expected to announce new deals during the three day event.
UK-based Gama Aviation, which operates out of Sharjah International Airport, has already announced it has added five aircraft to its operations in the Middle East, including an additional Embraer Legacy 600 and a Challenger 604 to its UAE charter fleet and an Embraer Legacy 650, Hawker 800XP and VIP Boeing 737 to its management fleet in the region.
"To enter our fourth year of operations in the Middle East on such a positive note is very rewarding. The market in the region for business aviation remains positive but slow, so it's pleasing to see that the hard work and customer service ethic of our entire team here at Gama is producing strong results and gaining significant traction,” said Dave Edwards, regional managing director at Gama Aviation.
“The opening of our Abu Dhabi and Jeddah bases… Gama Aviation is totally committed to providing a complete range of business aviation products and services to our Middle East based clients," he added.
Royal Jet, the private jet arm owned by the UAE’s Presidential Flight Authority and Abu Dhabi Aviation, also revealed it plans to expand its fleet as it celebrates its tenth year of operations.
Six of the carrier’s current fleet of nine aircraft were sourced from Boeing Business Jets (BBJ), but the Abu Dhabi operator has not confirmed whether it will continue to order from the US manufacturer or approach its European and Canadian rivals.
“One of the major activities [for 2013] will be the forward fleet plan,” Shane O’Hare, Royal Jet’s CEO, told the AIN Online website. “It will depend on who we choose. There will be a competitive tender. It won’t automatically be BBJ. There is quite a lot of competition… We anticipate an announcement in the first quarter of 2013,” he was quoted as saying.
Elsewhere at the show, Transworld Aviation announced it has signed a parts distribution centre agreement with Canadian aircraft manufacturer, Bombardier Aerospace, to operate a Dubai depot for Bombardier aircraft parts.
The move will support Bombardier’s operators in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and the facility will be located in the Jebel Ali Free Zone area.
Last week, airport officials said Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA) is set to become the emirate’s main business aviation hub from 2013, in a bid to reduce congestion at Dubai International Airport.
“I am proud to announce the commencement of business aviation operations from DWC (Dubai World Central) starting early 2013,” Rashed Bu Qara’a, chief operating officer at Dubai Aviation City Corporation, told reporters.
“This is part of the long-term migration strategy of shifting general aviation from Dubai International Airport to Al Maktoum International Airport. During this initial phase, we will utilise the VIP terminal within the passenger terminal. Shortly thereafter, we expect the first business aviation operations to commence out of DWC’s Aviation District in mid 2013,” he added.
Bu Qara’a said it was imperative that business aviation services moved to AMIA from Dubai International: “There is a problem there as far as the capacity and we, as business aviation, are suffering at Dubai International Airport because of the slots.
“Business aviation flies on demand, this is not the case at Dubai International, so business aviation has to move from there,” he believed.
At present, two business aviation firms operate from Dubai International, but this will initially be increased to five at AMIA. “After reaching maybe 20,000 [flight] movements per year we will introduce the sixth operator,” he added.
In the year to date, total aircraft movements at AMIA rose from 5,403 in 2011 to 11,571 during the same period in 2012 - an increase of 114 percent, DWC said in November.
Dubai Airports’ CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business in an interview in March full commercial operations were likely to stay at Dubai International for the foreseeable future.
AMIA will host MEBA Dubai from December 11 to 13 and Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association, said the number of attendees is forecast to increase from 6,200 in 2011 to 7,500 this year.
The number of exhibitors is set to grow from 338 from 33 countries in 2011 to 385 exhibitors from around 40 countries this year, while the number of aircraft on show will rise to 55.
Speaking at the DWS press conference, Al Naqbi said he was upbeat about the prospects for the business aviation sector in the Middle East in the coming years.
“I am very confident that we will see a return to a double digit [growth] very, very soon. By 2018, business aviation alone in the Middle East will be expected to be worth US1bn.”
Middle East airlines continued their dominance in October, posting world-best figures for passenger and cargo growth, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
According to the latest figures released in October, carriers in the region reported traffic growth at 12.4 percent year-on-year.
Middle East airlines also posted a 13.4 percent rise in cargo traffic which came on an 8.6 percent rise in capacity, raising load factor two percent to 46.4 percent.