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Let's talk business

Captain David Ovey, from Palm Aviation, discusses why the corporate jet market has taken off in the region.
COMMENT, Business Trends

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Question: Why has the corporate jets market recently taken off in the Middle East?

Expert: Captain David Ovey
Director of Operations at flight services provider Palm Aviation

The corporate aviation market has completely exploded in this part of the world, with a terrific amount of traffic and start-up companies coming into the area. We don't own any aircraft but give flight support to those companies or private individuals running their own business that aren't big enough to have their own operations department. When an aircraft is going to fly from A to B and cross four to six countries it has to pay for over-flight permits. It has to pay for fuel, the crew's hotel, cleaning and catering. Crews would either have to carry an awful lot of money around with them, or come to a company like us that does pretty much everything on a credit basis.

We have accounts with all the civil aviation bodies worldwide, so an aircraft flies over a country at 35,000ft, the authorities take a note and invoice us and we then bill the customer. There are certain restrictions in place in this part of the world that you don't get in Europe or the US. That said, there are restrictions in the states following 9/11, with the Transport Safety Advisory ensuring all foreign-registered aircraft has a permit to enter the US.

Before that, for example, you could go from Luton to Geneva, send the flight plan and off you go. Once the flight plan had been accepted, you could be airborne. Now in the UAE and Dubai, we are surrounded by countries all around us. Apart from submitting a flight plan, you have to obtain an overnight permit. There are times when it can take 24 to 48 hours, so it's a bit restrictive for the private market because a businessman who owns a US$40 million aircraft can usually go off when he wants to. It can still happen here, but there are certain restraints.

It's interesting that I am now this side of operations because I spent 25 years flying corporate aircraft before moving across. I will never again be on the phone saying ‘where's my flight plan or overnight clearance?' I now know the problems that occur, but at the end of the day it all goes to the pilot. With corporate aviation, the man who owns or hires the plane is sitting right behind you.

There are no secretaries where you can say, ‘tell them I'll call back'. The businessman can come up, tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘it's a 10 o'clock departure so why aren't we going?' I'm a terrible airline passenger because a scheduled time of departure for any aircraft is really the time you start taxiing. The corporate aviation market is more demanding. When I started flying corporate aviation I enjoyed it because you get to places where you probably wouldn't with an airline. The passengers go somewhere and you can be with them for those two to three days. It's nice when you fly an aircraft for an owner; you form a rapport and are working at the cutting edge. I used to work for Gulf Air and it was 1974 when I first set foot in Dubai. I got into corporate aviation in the early 1980s and knew a lot of the fairly larger sized companies.

In those days people didn't really travel. The larger families had a business and it would be here in Dubai. They might have had a branch in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi or Rak, but now when you look at the larger businesses based here they are all over the place. One of our clients can virtually visit all continents in four weeks.

We now have this boom in Dubai and a lot of companies are coming in with the CEOs and top management from Europe and the US. They have been used to chartering aircraft in that world, so there is demand for extra charter coming in.

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