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Jet-setters fly past airport delays and crowds
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 11 - 2008

THE rise in extremist activities and the phenomenon of aircraft hijacking has had at least one positive fallout: it has pushed up the sales of business jets on an international scale.
“After 9/11, the demand for business jets went up by 40 percent worldwide for security reasons,” Ammar Balkar, president and chief executive officer of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) told Saudi Gazette.
Galvanized by the tightening of airport security protocol around the world, leading to inordinate flight delays and loss of precious time, the business community has translated the adage ‘time is money' into practice.
Simply put, by using small business jets taking off from small airports, businessmen can avoid crowded airport terminals. Moreover, they can visit several locations instead of organizing their schedules around the flights available, and manage to do more than they would on commercial flights. A number of safety and security measures have to be taken into consideration in advance while operating business jets. For example, when an operator books a flight from destination ‘A' to ‘B,' he requests the passport copies of the passengers one day before the scheduled time. This information gets passed on to the authorities at both the destinations for clearance, before flying out.
“Security is a major concern of all governments and MEBAA follows strict checking procedures for safety and security prior to departure and on landing of any aircraft,” said Ali Ahmed Al-Naqbi, founding chairman of MEBAA, the organisation behind the Middle East Business Aviation show (MEBA), which is to be held in Dubai from November 16 to 18. Saudi exhibitors at the exhibition are NAS, Maz Aviation, Arabasco, and Yeslam.
Balkar said that astute companies in the Kingdom are increasingly using private charters as a cost-effective and convenient alternative to pricey commercial flights. “Fuel prices are increasing and as a result commercial air ticket costs are spiraling. Companies are doing the math and realizing that an entry-level jet can be chartered at a convenient time (to) fly more executives in the same luxury as first class, but on a more cost-effective budget,” he added.
Al-Naqbi explained that despite uncertain global economic conditions, the Middle East's resilient business aviation sector continues to fly high. New operators are setting up facilities, established players are consolidating their market positions and buyers are actively seeking out private transportation to meet growing demands for international travel solutions.
He said that Saudi Arabia is one of the most mature business aviation markets in the Middle East, and currently accounts for 50 percent of the region's business aviation and that figure is expected to double in the next five years.
“We think the regional business aviation market will be worth $1 billion by 2012 and we are seeing yearly growth rates of 15 percent to 20 percent,” he said. __


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