By Rob Morris
The leading player in aviation circles talks about his strategy for developing Rizon Jet into a leading chartered flights provider.
Ibrahim AlHamer has never lacked ambition. The CEO of Rizon Jet, who was recently responsible for civil aviation affairs in Bahrain, is considered one of the industry's leading figures in the Middle East.
Indeed, a quick glance at his track record shows spells at airlines Gulf Air and Air Arabia. But despite his accomplishments, AlHamer is determined to develop Rizon Jet into a premier chartered flights provider.
Established earlier this year, the Bahrain-based company provides flights for senior executives who make regular business trips across the Gulf. According to AlHamer, launching Rizon Jet earlier this year was a strategic move to capitalise on growing demand for chartered flights services. Quoting figures from the Middle East Business Aviation Association - a body that promotes the region's air travel industry - AlHamer says interest in chartered flights around the UAE and Saudi Arabia increased significantly in 2006 compared with the previous year.
Other figures support this trend, with AlHamer pointing to more bookings in the Middle East compared with Western countries. "It is growing rapidly, and according to statistics the number of business jets now operating in the region stands at 18% of all operated aircraft, which is the highest in Asia." he says. "The growth we are witnessing is between 15% and 20%, which is impressive considering the growth rate in the US or Europe is around 5%." For AlHamer, senior executives and businessmen are the core customers, although Rizon Jet will also target passengers with lower budgets.
"Many people have this wrong perception of what a private jet is all about," he says. "They think it's only available to the elite; to the wealthy, high net-worth individuals. It is true but we want to break that psychological barrier and [open up the] service by giving value for money and cost effectiveness. It's our number one priority and we will enlarge the company and number of customers by doing that."
When it began trading, Rizon Jet's authorised capital and paid-up capital was US$30 million and $10 million respectively, giving management the financial resources to develop further. Indeed, with only one six-seater Beechcraft Premier 1A in operation, the board is keen to acquire an identical model before investing the remainder of its $52 million budget in new aircraft. "With those two aircrafts we hope to offer travel to executives in the UAE - which is a big market of course - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf," AlHamer says.
Rizon Jet's shareholders, comprising directors from construction company AAJ Holdings, investment vehicle Rizon Partners and entrepreneur Hazem Janahi, also plan to introduce a Hawker 900 XP to the mix. The eight-seat aircraft, which cruises at 41,000 ft and covers 863km an hour, will operate from the company's regional office in Sharjah, flying to locations in central Europe.
By 2008, AlHamer expects Rizon Jet to have added a Bombardier Challenger 605, increasing the company's fleet to four aircrafts. Unlike the other three planes, the Bombardier will accommodate up to 11 passengers flying from the Gulf to London, New York and the Far East.
Running to full capacity should take about 18 months. By that stage, Rizon Jets will provide air travel at competitive prices, according to AlHamer. "It will be progressive growth to a point where we should provide cost effectiveness for people travelling with us. We intend to offer competitive prices; the service we give has to be cost effective."
If all goes to plan, the company will offer a more efficient service than its rivals, according to AlHamer. "Our objective is to try and give executives same day return, next day return or any time they wish, and for that purpose we have customised a special package where passengers no longer spend most of their valuable time travelling and sleeping in hotels."
Despite its limited fleet, AlHamer believes Rizon Jet holds its own in the chartered flight marketplace. For example, the Beechcraft Premier 1A jet offers typical services such as computer outlets, DVD players and spacious interior, as well as flights to Central Asia and Africa.
It's also one of the newest aircrafts off the production line, having been built earlier this year. Maximum cruising speed for the jet, which is powered by Williams-Rolls FJ44-2A Turbofan Engines, is 835km an hour, while nautical miles covered is some 1360.
The aircrafts also offer secretarial services to passengers, with some crew members doubling up as personal assistants for clients during business meetings. Whether this service will prove popular is uncertain, although Rizon Jet's management is hopeful it will take off.
Rizon Jet's recent inception makes it difficult to determine how successful the company will be. But AlHamer remains confident its management affairs service will be a hit with the region's top executives. Indeed, those wealthy enough to own private jets can hire Rizon Jet to manage the aircrafts on their behalf. "We can go one point beyond and arrange for financing in case some of them [executives] would like to buy their own aircraft," AlHamer says.
Expanding the fleet to four aircrafts and beyond remains high on the agenda, according to AlHamer. It's unclear how long acheiving this aim will take but once satified, focus will switch to establishing the company as a leading charter jet operator in the Middle East. Beyond that, the long-term strategy for AlHamer and his colleagues is to develop Rizon Jet into a globally-recognised business.