The Middle East market for business jets is taking off as companies become more aware of the benefits of private flights, according to manufacturers.
Some of the industry’s biggest players are looking to capitalise on the trend by taking part in the second annual Abu Dhabi Air Expo, which opened yesterday in the capital.
The three-day event is the only general aviation exhibition in the region and is expected to draw more than 12,000 visitors.
"I think it's fair to say business aviation is well established in the Middle East, but there is a notable shift now," said Philip Nasskau, a spokesman for Bombardier.
“[Jets] are becoming much more used by businesses and corporations because of the efficiency gains that you get. With a private aircraft you get to fly to the cities that you need to be in when you need to be there.”
Orders have been rising in the region, according to manufacturers, and the industry is projected to keep growing.
Bombardier estimates that there will be 735 new business jets in the region by 2021, and a further 1,260 bought between 2022 and 2031.
Gulfstream, a US-based manufacturer, has already enjoyed significant growth in the Middle East in the past five years and is expecting more.
It had 146 aircraft in the region last year, up from about 110 in 2007.
“You can see just by the growth in numbers, almost a 50 per cent increase in sales of Gulfstream operating in the area, that the [business jet industry] is definitely coming into its own in the Middle East,” said Heidi Fedak, the senior manager of social media and external communications at Gulfstream.
“I expect [more] growth in the region, especially now we have the Gulfstream G650 available for sale,” added Ms Fedak.
The G650, which is being exhibited for the first time in the Middle East at the air expo, is the fastest business jet on the market, and can fly from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi in about 13 hours, shaving about two hours off the journey time of a larger passenger plane.
Range is also becoming more important as more companies are flying farther on business.
“Here the aircraft are very used to going outside the region and connecting to Europe and the US and a lot now are connecting to Asia,” said Renaud Cloatre, the general manager of Dassault Falcon Middle East. “The business jet is a tremendous tool for any businessman. It gives you flexibility, and for businessmen in the region it is a tool that they are well educated to use now.”
About 10 years ago, buyers would use consultants when choosing their aircraft, but today, many clients are directly involved in the purchasing process.
“We are seeing a different buyer today than what we saw some time ago in the Middle East,” said Colin Steven, the vice president of sales and marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Embraer Executive Jets.
“Today there is so much information out there that the guys understand range is the priority, comfort is the priority, so I want to go big and I don’t want anything small.”