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Tue 1 Nov 2016 12:23 PM

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UAE seeing 'rising demand' for helicopter, private jet travel apps

Chairman of Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association says country will need more authorised landing space

UAE seeing 'rising demand' for helicopter, private jet travel apps
(Getty Images)

The UAE is seeing growing demand for smartphone apps that can arrange private helicopter and jet rides – along the lines of what Uber is trialling across the world - according to the chairman of regional transport body the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).

Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, who is MEBAA’s founding chairman, was quoted as telling Zawya that the UAE has the potential to be a “big market” for variations of the ride hailing services provided by popular apps Uber and Careem.

He said there was growing appetite for helicopter and private jet services as commuters seek to avoid long journeys and bad traffic on local roads.

However, the country would need to develop the necessary logistics and infrastructure to support this market, such as authorised landing space for helicopters, he reportedly told an event in Dubai this week.

Alnaqbi said: “I think there would be huge potential for helicopter services here, especially when cities are becoming congested.

“Now most of the high-rise buildings are provided with helipads for services, but it is a very premature market. It is very interesting for commercial use. I think it is something that is unavoidable.”

He added: “The GCAA (Gulf Civil Aviation Authority), one of the plans they talk about is helipad authorisation... So that is a big market coming up and part of the general aviation.”

Uber last November trialled its UberChopper helicopter service in the UAE to offer time-limited services between Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend.

Uber is thought to be considering the possibility of rolling out the services more widely. It has also trialled UberJet, which enables wealthy film fans travelling to Cannes Film Festival to book a private jet trip through its smartphone app. More permanent private jet services have been rolled out in Europe and the US.

In an interview with Arabian Business last year, Uber’s then general manager for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) said that there was no limit to what products and services apps like Uber could provide.

“Ultimately, we are a technology platform," Jambu Palaniappan said. "All we’re doing is connecting you as a rider with a car and that car comes to you in five minutes. If we can deliver you a car in five minutes, there isn’t a lot else we can’t deliver in five minutes.

“The Uber cars that are moving around cities are essentially a mesh of urban transport, a layer of technology, laid over the physical footprint of the city.

“So the question is, if we can get you a car, can we get you lunch? Can we get your groceries? Can we send you healthcare? Those are interesting questions and we are experimental by nature.”

Other services Uber is trialling are a food delivery product called UberEATS – which is now available in the UAE; UberRUSH, a New York City-based courier service; UberCASH in Riyadh and Jeddah, where passengers prefer to pay by cash rather than card, and UberPOOL, a ‘carpooling’ product that would enable people to split the cost of journeys with others going to or from the same place.

Uber is understood to be in talks with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) over launching the latter two in the UAE.

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