Highlights: Corporate Jet Investor Dubai

Top business aviation professionals from around the world descended on the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, to discuss the Middle Eastern bizjet market.

LAST YEAR, Middle Eastern bizjet operators warned that 2018 would be tough. Unfortunately, they were right. With political uncertainty in Saudi and the ongoing blockade in Qatar, two key markets were hit. At Corporate Jet Investor Dubai 2019, the damage was discussed. However, future projections were not all dismal -- 57% of delegates were fairly optimistic about their companies in the next 12 months.

Now in its fourth year, CJI Dubai welcomed many familiar delegates and sponsors. There was one common factor: they all wanted to be indoors, where there was air-conditioning.

In the first panel itself, all the speakers except Rob DiCastri of Royal Jet Group, said 2018 had not been a good year for their Middle Eastern business.

RJG operates Boeing Business Jet aircraft within the regional charter market, and DiCastri made a telling point: "If the price is right, customers are happy to go through with it.”

Paul van der Blom, of DC Aviation Al-Futtaim, cited the need for a body to liaise between the bizjet market and civil aviation authorities in the Middle East It may be needed as the market grows, for as Falcon Aviation’s Captain Ramandeep Oberoi said, the Saudi International Air Show and other regional expos will increase movements to FBOs and MROs, and therefore grow the market as a whole.

Jean-Noel Robert, from Airbus Corporate Jets, targeted the ME market with a presentation on ‘Why bigger is better.’ Cabin space, cost, people and range emerged as the foremost reasons, with 51% of the room prioritising cabin space over the others.

Dubai-based Jetex Flight Support’s Adel Mardini outlined his company’s 10-year goal -- to be the top FBO worldwide. He said Jetex would not look to move into management, as it would be competing with its current clients. And Saudi Arabia remains its biggest market in the region. There were others who were positive about this market as well.

NASJET’s Yosef Hafiz voiced his confidence in local charter. He said: “I think Saudi Arabia is the place to be. I always tell people to continue doing business here. It's going to be the next big boom.

And Embraer’s Claudio Camelier concurred, adding that there was significant buyer interest from the country too. He also said that, to a certain extent, commercial airlines can be competition for bizjets in the region.

Despite the confidence in Saudi Arabia, business aviation in the Middle East depends on a number of factors, many of which can sometimes be uncontrollable.

Traditionally, owners do not want to buy pre-owned aircraft and will not want to give up their aircraft for charter. Fractional ownership, too, is rare

Yuvan Kumar, Reporter, Corporate Jet Investor