Activity in the private and business jet sector registered strong growth during the first quarter of 2021 as corporates and high net worth individuals preferred charter flights following the suspension or reduction of regular flights on popular destinations from Dubai, Khaleej Times has learnt.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub in Dubai South on Saturday announced that movements of private jets continued their impressive growth in 2021 with a 336 per cent increase recorded during the first quarter, reaching 4,904 compared to 1,460 in the first quarter of 2020 and 1,676 a year earlier.
DC Aviation Al-Futtaim (DCAF), another Dubai-based business aviation company with its own FBO and hangar facility, recorded a 25 per cent increase in private and business jet activity in the first quarter. The uptick has also seen increased business across other areas of aviation including charters, ground handling, maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“Our private jets movements at the VIP Terminal in Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub have been increasing steadily since last July,” the hub’s CEO, Tahnoon Saif, said in a statement to Khaleej Times on Saturday.
Saif attributed the “significant growth” in private jet activity to the successful national vaccination campaign and the emirate’s status as a preferred destination for tourists from across the world, as well as Dubai ranking third globally and second in the major cities category in the recent FDI Global Cities of the Future 2021-22 report as a magnet for foreign direct investment.
UAE emerges strong
Holger Ostheimer, managing director of DCAF, said the UAE has firmly established itself on the world stage with the positive steps it has taken to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the increase in flight movement is the result of the increased confidence in the UAE government’s vaccination programme, tourism-related initiatives and other economic stimulus measures taken to boost consumer and business sentiment.
“We have seen this an increased number even into the holy month of Ramadan, which is generally a quiet period and we expect this trend to continue for the remainder of the year,” he said.
“Last year was a very difficult year for the industry. But if we are to look at the numbers from 2019 to 2021, we have seen a 25 per cent increase in flights movement at our VVIP facility at Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South,” he added.
DCAF is a joint venture between Stuttgart-based DC Aviation, the largest operator of business jets in Germany and one of the leading operators in Europe, and Dubai-based Al-Futtaim, a privately-owned UAE business conglomerate. It is the first and only fully-integrated business aviation facility based out of Al Maktoum International Airport located at Dubai South with two dedicated hangars measuring 5,700sqm and 7,500sqm, bringing its total land-side plot area to 24,000sqm and apron area to 13,000sqm.
Ostheimer said DCAF saw an increased number of VVIP guests arriving from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe, India and Pakistan, amongst others.
“We have also seen increased visitors from Israel following the signing of the Abraham Accords agreement to open diplomatic, trade and economic relations between the two countries,” he said.
To a question about the average cost of private jet experience from the CIS, Israel, India and Pakistan, he said charter flight prices are expressed in block hours per flight.
“The general rule of thumb is approximately $6,000 per hour. The costs vary based on several factors including flight hours and type of aircraft, amongst others,” he said.
Enquiries from India
Ostheimer said DCAF received a good number of enquiries to hire private or business jets as regular flights are not available on UAE-India routes.
“The crisis in India probably shows that we are still in the middle of the pandemic. We are probably seeing levels of demand that we have not seen for many years. Due to the significance of the relations between the UAE and India, we naturally see a high number of Indian clients passing through our facility... we have seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of enquiries from India for our charter services and we expect this trend to continue for the next couple of months,” he said.
Aviation experts and analysts see bright prospects for private jet activity in the second half of this year as customers are willing to travel despite the restrictions on scheduled flights in the wake of worsening Covid-19 situations in certain parts of the region.
“We look forward to sustaining the momentum of aircraft movements as Dubai gears up to welcoming the world to Expo 2020 in October,” Saif said.
Ostheimer, meanwhile, said there is a clear indication that the industry is faring a lot better than two years ago.
“Let us take the example of our ground-handling activity, where we have witnessed a 25 per cent increase from 2019 versus 2021; we see a similar increase in our charter services from the second half of last year,” he added.