UK-based Mirai Flights, the tech start-up service for instant booking of charter flights, will enter the Middle East with three new deals as it seeks to capitalise on robust demand for luxury travel from the ultra-rich.
The self-proclaimed “Uber for private jets” signed contracts with Middle East-based charter brokers Aeon Luxe, AirJets and Jet Summit, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Adding Middle Eastern brokers to the service is a crucial step in achieving our main aim to automate the business aviation booking process,” Irakli Litanishvili, co-founder and chief executive of Mirai Flights, said.
“There are plenty of investment and partnership opportunities.”
The demand for private travel remained strong throughout the coronavirus pandemic as wealthy clients sought alternatives to commercial flights.
A record for global business jet demand was set in the first half of 2022, and although the rebound is slowing, the gains on 2019 have held steady at about 20 per cent, according to a report by data research and consulting company WingX Advance.
In the first six months of 2022, 2.7 million business aviation flights took to the skies.
Business jets and turboprops flew 22 per cent more flights than in the first half of 2021 and 15 per cent more than same period in 2019.
The turboprop rebound has been relatively weaker. Business jet activity is up 27 per cent compared to last year and 21 per cent higher than levels of 2019, according to WingX Advance.
“The UAE, resilient throughout the pandemic, is only 3 per cent up this year compared to last year, but with 86 per cent more business jet flights than in the first half of 2021,” the report said.
Growth in luxury travel has fuelled a boom in demand for private aircraft. Corporate jet makers have reported growing order backlogs.
Honeywell International raised its outlook for business jet deliveries as travel picks up thanks to easing of restrictions.
It forecasts 7,400 new business jet deliveries worth $238 billion between 2022 and 2031, a 1 per cent increase in deliveries from the same 10-year forecast a year ago, according to its annual Global Business Aviation Outlook.
Fund-raising plans in the Middle East
Mirai Flights plans to extend its first foray into the Middle East, seeking a round of fund-raising from investors there.
“Mirai Flights is also open to regional investment, with a series A round approaching shortly,” Mr Litanishvili said.
“Our goals regionally are to develop Mirai’s B2B and B2C offerings through partnerships with local companies and FBO partners.”
Mirai said its decision to enter the Middle East is driven by the UAE's position as a well-established business aviation market and that its luxury travel segment is open to tech-based services.
The region is also evolving into an “essential player” in the global IT sector, providing start-ups with an attractive base to grow their operations, the company said.
For business aviation, this means that advanced transport such as air taxis can be supported by the automated technology that Mirai Flights offers, it said.
Mirai Flights is backed by UK's Xploration capital venture fund and the UAE- based private investors, operating in 63 countries to date, according to the statement.
The company did not name the local investors.
How the instant private jet booking service works
Mirai Flights connects travellers to private jets on its app, offering choices for time and place of departure, the class of aircraft, price and the number of passengers on-board.
Customers can book business jets for domestic and international flights, with the app guaranteeing a fixed price for the flight, which is calculated at the time of booking.
A trip in August from Dubai to Istanbul can cost around €36,456 ($37,206), while a Dubai-Milan flight starts from €77,207, according to its website.
Crypto payments for private jet travel
Offering cryptocurrency payments for business aviation services, Mirai Flights sees the Middle East as one of the “pivoting markets” where many users with high purchasing power are using cryptocurrencies to pay for transactions.
“Mirai makes such payments accessible and simple, both for the end client and for us as a broker. Just a few steps — and everything is a done deal,” said Tatiana Furga, financial director of Jet Summit.
“Enabling crypto payments gives us a great competitive advantage and financial flexibility. We … are confident that the volume of such operations will only grow.”