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Tue 30 Jun 2009 06:34 AM

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Mideast super rich curb travel in global crisis

Business jet firm says demand for flights down 20% in Q1 compared to same period in 2008.

Demand for business jet flights in the Middle East was down 20 percent in this year’s opening quarter compared to 2008, an industry expert has claimed.

Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of private jet operator Vistajet, said that even companies in this region proved susceptible to the economic crunch.

In recent years, the Middle East’s business jet market expanded rapidly as super rich customers eyeing luxury travel booked executive flights.

But the global downturn saw demand wane in this region in early 2009, according to Flohr. “In the first quarter, the world was still in shock and wondering where the financial markets were going,” he told Arabian Business.

While the Middle East has been hit, Flohr said the impact was less than in other regions. He added business is starting to pick up and will improve in this year’s second half.

“People who haven’t called for six to nine months are doing so and they’re interested again,” he said. “Put it this way, the phone is ringing again and that’s something we have seen from March to April onwards.

Vistajet is expected to register 25 percent yearly growth in 2009, although Flohr admits the figure is down considerably from 50 percent 12 months ago.

“Are we going to go back to the levels from 12-18 months ago? No, but we are seeing normalisation and people know where they stand,” he said.

“No matter where you are in terms of wealth, you want to know whether you still have your job, some of your assets, and if everything OK? It’s prudent that people went through this incredible period of insecurity, and as normality comes back they go back to normal – flying business jets is part of that world.

“I believe by sometime in 2010 we will see levels of flying that we saw in 2007 and the early part of 2008,” he added.

 Vistajet is based in Zurich, flying to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the US. It carries 1,500 passengers a month on 600 flights.

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