By Rob Morris
Head of Air Partner says demand among affluent travellers for business jet flights remains high.
The Middle East business aviation industry is coping better with the economic downturn than other regions, an industry figure has claimed.
Kevin Ducksbury, director of the Middle East and Asia for aviation and charter services provider Air Partner, said demand among affluent travellers for business jet flights remained high, despite the difficult market conditions.
When speaking to Arabian Business, Ducksbury said: “If you look at the client profile here, the wealth and how it is spent is different to what we see in Europe and the Americas. The high net-worth individual who travels for leisure purposes is certainly more prominent here.
“Not only is the concept of business travel more prominent here, but also the type of aircraft they fly on and their willingness to spend greater amounts on larger aircraft even if there are just one or two passengers.
“In the Middle East, it’s more about the aircraft and the perception of the aircraft they are travelling on,” Ducksbury added.
While insisting business aviation in the Middle East was in better shape than other regions, Ducksbury admitted the sector had suffered during 2009.
“We have certainly seen a little bit of slowdown,” he said. “In Dubai it’s been hit quite hard and in the overall Middle Eastern market there is still growth, but it has slowed down over the last eight months.”
He added of Air Partner’s 20 global offices, its private jet operation in the Middle East was the only one to register growth in 2009.
“The Middle East market is still buoyant in comparison to Europe and certainly the US where we have seen huge downturns and been hit quite hard in those sectors,” he said.
For this year’s second quarter, Ducksbury said general demand would remain low during the typically slow summer months as thousands of people leave the region for holidays. But he insisted interest would return following this period and the end of Ramadan.
“We are seeing more operators, not just local ones but also European and US ones, looking to base aircraft here in the region, so all the time we are seeing the supply of private jets expand,” he said.
“It’s possible that this is slightly ahead of the demand, but we are in a limbo situation where people are waiting for the downturn to flatten out and growth to start coming back again.
"We have certainly seen a little bit of slowdown" ... meaning exactly what. Tell us exactly how many executive aircraft flew in and out of Dubai last month, compared with the previous year etc. Tell us if the rates have dropped, tell us if downsizing is happening, tell us anything but this mindless spin that is contradicted everywhere else in the region and the world. The biz-jet vendors at Paris this year were suicidal, so there must be a couple of G500s rusting somewhere in the desert.
Geraint's right. The market in the Middle East has been just as decimated as everywhere else in the world, yet the picture being painted is almost naively contradictory. Execujet ME quote a fall of 30%, Empire report 50-60%, MEBAA reckon 40% - those are the kind of numbers that have been seen in North America and Europe and there's absolutely no way it's going to be any different in the MENA region. Air Partner, a UK plc, has seen its share price tumble over the past 12 months. They put out an interim management statement on 5 June warning that the second half of its financial year, from February to July, was seeing "reduced demand and weak pricing prevailing across all markets" and that profits would be lower than market expectations. It follows half-year results on 25 March, in which the group reported "difficult trading conditions with reduced visibility and shorter lead times" after a "poor winter". If MENA is so substantially different how can all the other companies there be reporting massive falls in revenue (caused by decreased demand and charter prices) and yet Air Partner, which presumably uses these people, be reporting substantial rises? The wealth profile of the MENA region is no different to the profile of other countries, that's a red herring. Please, let's get rid of this constant PR spin. It's tiring.