A business class seat on a London-bound Emirates flight can cost more than Dh12,000.
“When people actually get the numbers and quote – two hours in a business jet as opposed to going into commercial airline and going through a commercial terminal, you’ll find out it’s only marginally more expensive,” said Mike Berry, Managing Director of Execujet Middle East, which manages aircraft on behalf of owners.
“That’s why it is finally attracting new customers – understanding that you know what, it’s not all that expensive to fly.”
To keep this momentum going, these operators want to ensure their services can still be called upon by at least some of the newly created users.
Several industry participants believe that rates need to be brought down further. One of them is regional business aviation industry stalwart, Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi.
“The charter in our area has been on the high end, and we have been wanting to bring it down,” said Alnaqbi, who is Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).
To that end, Alnaqbi has been urging operators in the region to bring in smaller aircraft for their fleets. Light jets like Embraer Phenom 100 and Eclipse 500 are cost-effective to operate and ideal for short-distance travel, while the heavier Dassault Falcon 7X and Bombardier Global 6000 are like “hotels in the sky” with lavishly appointed interiors and ultra-uber amenities.
Alnaqbi wants more of the former above Middle Eastern skies. “If you’re going to go, let’s say from here to Riyadh, which is less than two hours, you don’t have to go with a wide-body aircraft,” he said.
Health as priority
“A lot of people could afford to travel business jets in the past, but they elected to go commercial for financial reasons. It does not matter anymore because health has become the priority.”
“Despite the extraordinary circumstances related to the pandemic, we are seeing some encouraging trends with regards to private aviation in the longer term,” said a spokesperson. “Business jet traffic, for example, is recovering at a much faster rate than commercial.
“We’ve also seen limited order cancellations, and new interest in private air travel is generating increased attention from a sales perspective – the long-range Global family of business jets have been particularly resilient.”
Execujet sees demand completely returning in 2021, with continued implementation of COVID-19 measures. “What I think we’ll see is a new norm of procedures being adopted, prior to the flight and after,” said Berry.
“This includes temperature testing, regular sanitization, and social distancing. Hopefully, by the end of 2021, everything resumes almost in line levels with what we saw in 2019 and pre-COVID-19.
“The business traffic will resume and the typical UAE traffic summer breaks – going to destinations in Europe, North America – that will resume again next year.”