Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Not just another rich and famous play toy

Ever wondered who is flying those shiny jets and why? Keep reading beacuse I will reveal it all (sort of...) in this article published in a weekly magazine. They even rolled-in the photographer to take a picture of me sitting at my desk! However, we all quickly realized that my desk looked nowhere near to an ideal example of a hard thinking man... so for the picture I went off to use the office of my HR manager!
Alex de Vos, is the general manager of Gulf Executive Aviation, a company which deals in private aviation which he founded in 2005. Its head office is in Bahrain, providing central access from and to all countries in the Middle East. It has also been involved in major projects within the Middle East, ranging from arranging charter flights to sourcing and financing aircraft for airlines. It is currently bidding for three major charter contracts in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. GEA represents a European tour operator and a large flight school in the GCC. In this exclusive column in GulfWeekly he shares his views about the rise of the industry.

We all have seen the numerous shiny private jets during the recent highly-successful Formula One race in Bahrain. Ever wondered who actually fly these highly-sophisticated aircraft? Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it? Only the Michael Schumachers of this world are capable and willing of spending huge amounts of money on such an unnecessary tool. Do you agree with me? Then keep reading, you might be in for a big surprise.

It is estimated that there are approximately 300 private jets based in the GCC region. The fleet’s growth forecast is around eight per cent per year. Now I ask you: does the GCC really host 300 Michael Schumachers within its boundaries? No, we don’t. So, who is flying those jets then? Politicians? Top executives? Your neighbour?

Actually, all of them do. Simply put, people that value time use private jets. Imagine you have a meeting in Cairo at say 11:00 in the morning. Now guess what: your scheduled flight leaves Bahrain airport at 11am! That means that you will have to fly the day before and spend a night in an impersonal hotel of your company’s choice. At least you want to return home immediately after your meeting right? You’d better think again! I am sure the hotel receptionist will start calling you by your first name by now.

Now, do the maths with a private jet. You leave Bahrain early morning and return the same day. Simple, easy and hassle free. You do not have to be at the airport two hours before the flight takes place, nor will you face any checkin queues. Now, if that meeting takes a little bit longer, your aircraft is still waiting for you. YOU are in charge of YOUR travel mission! Imagine the high-level of privacy onboard your private jet. Nice? Picturing your personal flight yet?

No wonder an ever-increasing number of executives, managers, but also private individuals are turning towards this easy and convenient way of air travel. Ask yourself the question: is a meeting of two hours really worth spending three days away from home? Wouldn’t you rather be with your loved ones and charge that inner battery for your next
workday? At least I do, and with me an ever-increasing number of Middle Eastern travelers.

It is therefore not surprising that we see an increase in private jet flight-hours regionally of about 15 per cent per year. By the way, did you know that studies prove that passengers of a private jet get actually more work done onboard than they would at the office? Caught the attention of your boss now, didn’t I?

Despite existing regional difficulties like lacking open sky policies and state monopolies on scheduled airline services, the Middle East is the fastest-growing aviation market in the world, with private aviation contributing to this growth with an over-proportional percentage.

So, the next time you see a private jet waiting to take-off, do not assume Michael Schumacher has come over for his daily shisha. It is probably your neighbour taking charge of its own time. Who’s rich and famous now?

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