The MEBAA Conference opened December 10 at the MEBAA 2018 show in its new on-site format, as senior Dubai aviation officials and representatives of the aircraft manufacturers gave an update on the progress of business aviation in the region and the UAE's role in these developments.
Keynote speaker Jamal Al Hai, deputy chairman, Dubai Airports, stressed the contribution of aviation to Dubai’s economy. “The aviation sector as a whole contributed $26.7 billion to the Dubai economy in 2013, or almost 27 percent of Dubai’s GDP, and supported a total of 416,500 jobs. It is [forecast] to contribute $88.1 billion or 45 percent of the Dubai GDP by 2030.”
Al Hai said general aviation was an important contributor to the aviation sector and the growth of prosperity in the UAE. “The UAE has over 147 private aircraft of different types and sizes, providing businessmen with over 50,000 flights in 2017. This number is expected to grow in the coming years, especially with the launch of Expo 2020 and the emerging role of the UAE in the international arena.”
The UAE ranks second in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia in terms of private aircraft numbers, he said. “It has ten handling companies to serve private aircraft owners, senior officials and businessmen, and five aircraft maintenance companies, all of which provide unrivaled service to this segment of travelers.”
Al Hai said the facilities at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) match international standards, and he underscored the fact that the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority now grants landing permits for private aircraft in 30 minutes and is working to reduce this to 15 minutes by adopting the best smart solutions. “In comparison, the issuance of similar permits takes much longer in other cities. In some cases it can take days,” he said.
Information from data provider WingX showed that in the seven quarters to October 2018, Bombardier aircraft saw 40 percent of UAE business jet departures, Gulfstream 24 percent, and Dassault 13 percent.
Top destinations for UAE business jet travelers were Turkey, with 2,576 flights; the UK, with 2,449; France, 1,968; Russia, 1,687; and Greece, 1,603 flights over the same period. The UAE saw a total of 18,684 flights during the seven quarters, reflecting a fall in year-on-year growth of 2.3 percent.
During the conference, an OEM panel discussed the prospects for aircraft sales in the region, and members agreed that the facilities in Dubai lead the way, but that there is a need for smaller airports dedicated to business aviation, along the lines of the model of Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi.
“We see the model evolving out of the region,” said Khader Mattar, Bombardier’s vice president of sales for Middle East and Africa. “I would love to see more smaller airports in the Middle East because we have a lot of smaller facilities that are not being utilized. If [the authorities] look at that, that would be a very good investment for the future.”