Business Aviation Interviews

The Global Sky Interview – Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, Executive Chairman, MEBAA

The Global Sky Interview – Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, Executive Chairman, MEBAA

On the eve of the 2022 Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association’s (MEBAA) show in Dubai, Asian Sky Group spent some time speaking with the association’s founding and executive chairman, Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi.

How has 2022 been so far for business aviation in the region?

The Middle East – specifically the GCC region – has witnessed some of the strongest growth in business jet demand, most notably from the United Arab Emirates. While the UAE witnessed the highest demand in private jet charter services by revenue in 2021, followed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, this growth momentum across the Middle East continued into 2022, with flights up by 47% in May compared with the same period in 2019.

In the UAE specifically, the private jet market is predicted to see the number of aircraft doubly by 2025, reaching 250 from the current figure of around 150. The UAE is strongly positioned to capitalize on increased foreign investment and high-net-worth individuals, driven by a strong influx of international wealth and support from the Dubai government to make the emirate the private jet capital of the region.

Mega events like Dubai Expo 2020 and the Qatar World Cup have also led to increased demand for business aviation in the region. The World Cup is expected to add $18 billion to Qatar’s economy and attract more than 1.2 million fans, with many of them staying in the UAE and flying into Doha for the matches. As a result, DC Aviation Al-Futtaim (DCAF), a joint venture between Dubai-based Al-Futtaim and Germany’s DC Aviation GmbH, witnessed a 22% month-on-month increase in charter inquiries in October, meanwhile Dubai-based private jet operator Jetex expects to fly an additional 2,500 flights to and from Doha throughout the duration of the World Cup.

What do you see as the biggest challenges in the region?

Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges facing many industries – and business aviation is no exception. Our industry is close to the beginning of its sustainability journey, but this topic will be at the forefront of this year’s MEBAA Show, both through our exhibitors and conference sessions.

We have a number of new aircraft on display, all of which will highlight new sustainable features and solutions, for example, the Boeing – 737, Dassault Aviation – Falcon 8X, Bombardier Aerospace – Global 7500, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation – G700, and many more. During our BizAv Talks conference, sustainability will also feature as a key topic for some of the panel discussions and presentations. For example, there will be a panel discussion on ‘Strategies for business aviation sustainability’, which will discuss the best practices to meet green goals while protecting ROI, looking at the short- and long-term perspective of OEMs, fuel suppliers and operators.

Which Middle East countries should we keep our eye on for the next few years to see impressive growth?

This is an incredibly exciting time for the industry, and we are continuing to see rapid growth across the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt is on our radar and we are planning to open up the business aviation market there as we did in Morocco. More specifically in the GCC region, we are focussing a lot on Oman.

Are there any particular countries that you see growth in outside the Middle East?

The rise of business aviation is a trend we are witnessing in many markets across the world, with the global private jet market projected to reach $39.84 billion in 2025, up 54% from $25.87 billion in 2021. While the Middle East is at the forefront of this rapid increase, other regions are experiencing significant growth. As an example, Europe saw nearly 300,000 business jet flights in the first half of the year, a 38% increase over the same period last year, and 17% more than in 2019. This rise was a result of pent-up demand for travel since the pandemic, with high-net-worth individuals opting to fly on private jets rather than first class on commercial airlines. Baggage delays, flight delays and cancellations were also witnessed across many parts of Europe, leading to those who could afford it to opt for private flying.

The U.S. is also seeing significant growth. According to data from Airbus Corporate Jets, the world’s biggest business aviation market saw increases of 11.7% and 14.4% in departures in May and June this year, when compared to the same months during 2019.

What are your expectations for this year’s MEBAA show?

The MEBAA Show has already established itself as the ideal place to meet and build relationships with regional and international professionals from across the business aviation industry, and we are expecting this year’s show to be our best yet. As we welcome a huge number of regional, national and international exhibitors for our ninth edition of the show, we are proud to see many of our long-term exhibitors return, as well as welcome many new ones, all ready to showcase their cutting-edge technology, market-leading solutions and innovative aircraft.

This year, we have also put a major focus on enhanced in-person networking opportunities, with a series of new features to take networking to the next level, drive the industry forward and generate return on investment (ROI) for exhibitors.

Are there any new features in the 2022 edition? 

The ninth edition of the MEBAA Show will have a re-defined and revitalized program to drive the business aviation industry forward. One of our biggest highlights for this year is the brand-new BizAv Talks conference, where over 45 global industry leaders and specialists will share their insights on some of the key themes shaping the industry, including sustainability, future aviation and emerging markets. During one of the sessions, I will highlight the regional trends that are vital for businesses to operate in the Middle East during my presentation on ‘Emerging markets forecast – accessing the top countries who are contributing to business aviation growth’.

In line with our enhanced focus on in-person networking, this year’s show will have a dedicated Operators Programme, created specifically to facilitate business matchmaking and meetings with regional and international operators. We also have our newly launched AI-powered MEBAA Connect app, which will facilitate business connections between exhibitors and visitors and enable them to pre-schedule meetings in advance.

How will the 2022 MEBAA Show help shape the future of the industry?

As the business aviation industry continues to grow, the MEBAA Show will showcase the latest innovations and technologies to take operations to the next level.

The aim for the show is for members of the business aviation community to come together across the three days to knowledge share, discuss the challenges and solutions facing the industry and see the latest products and innovations that will shape the future of business aviation.