30 Seconds On The Business Of… Business Aviation

Gulf Business speaks to Ali Ahmed Al Naqbi, founding chairman of Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).

The Middle East’s business aviation industry is currently booming. Why?

There is an increase in awareness amongst the community on the need for business aviation. Earlier, people looked at business aviation as a luxury and therefore, a pure expense, but businesses have recently begun to realise that business aviation increases productivity and time efficiency.

Therefore, as the economy recovers from its recent crisis, the general economical growth in the Middle East market has positively impacted the business aviation industry as well.

Where is demand coming from?

Due to the fact that within six hours from the Middle East you can reach 60 per cent of the world, we are seeing demand increase from Europe, the Far East and Russia, from corporations and individuals.

The increased demand can also be attributed to the limited “supply” of travel facilities for the business traveller.

What are the challenges that arise from this kind of accelerated growth?

The main one for us is the need for greater infrastructure and airport access to accommodate the growth in the sector. What concerns us is that a wide variety of facilities and access for business jets is not available today. Alongside this, the development of suitable ground staff and maintenance facilities also means that growth in maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) provision is crucial.

Another challenge is having regulations that are up to speed with this growth, to make sure that business aviation is specifically regulated rather than having corporate aircrafts fall under the same rules as commercial aviation.

How can the industry tackle these issues?

Through our continued efforts in raising awareness and dialogue with the region’s authorities, governments and all other business aviation stakeholders, we will look to implement a roadmap with set milestones to guide the regional industry towards a successful future.

Lastly, where do you see the industry headed? Will growth slow down?

Quite the contrary. We expect the market to continue its 12 per cent year on year increase, culminating in the number of registered aircrafts rising from 500 to 1375 within the next 10 years, growing the regional industry to over $1 billion during this period.

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