This time their clients are not just the well-heeled businessmen or high-net-worth individuals who prefer luxury flying.
As commercial airlines continue to scale down operations amid the global spread of Covid-19, private jets are taking to the skies offering an alternative means of air transport.
But this time their clients are not just the well-heeled businessmen or high-net-worth individuals who prefer luxury flying. Private jet companies in the UAE say they are dealing with a new breed of clients – expats who are stuck abroad and desperate to fly back to the UAE or those wanting to return to their home countries.
“There is a big surge in demand and we are dealing with a new customer base. The spike in demand is from those who are looking to repatriate to their home countries or wanting to travel to destinations where commercial airlines are not flying,” Elie Hanna, regional director of Air Charter, a private jet brokerage company based in Dubai, told Khaleej Times.
In the last three weeks, since the UAE allowed the return of residents, Hanna claims his company operated 12 flights from Saudi Arabia to the UAE and several flights from various Indian cities to the emirates.
Hanna said when his company was flooded with enquiries from individuals, they adopted a new strategy to link up individual passengers and helped them form small groups so that they can afford a private jet.
“For instance, if we get ten separate calls from individuals interested in a specific route, we will help them connect. They will pick a group leader who will collect the money and pay us in a single cheque and sign the flying agreement. And we fly them from point A to B.
“We don’t see it as opportunistic. We were quick to adapt to the changing dynamics and help these people with an affordable option,” he added.
Ramila Tandel, Charter sales manager of Gulf Wings, a private Jet company in Dubai, said the demand is “mind-boggling”.
“Most of the enquiries are from people who have personal issues. There are many who got separated from families, or who got stuck abroad while they had a job in Dubai. For them, chartering a private jet has become an option to return,” she said.
“The first high-profile assignment we took up was to fly back the honeymooning couple Ria and Rohan Bhatia from Mumbai to Dubai on June 25.”
The Dubai couple who flew to the Maldives on March 13 got stranded there for more than three months because of the closure of airspace. After reaching Mumbai, they flew back to Dubai on a private jet operated by Gulf Wings, along with 12 others.
“Since then, we are inundated with calls from people who want to charter private jets to come back to the UAE,” said Tandel.
High demand routes
Many companies said they are seeing a surge in demand for UAE-bound jet planes from GCC countries and cities like Delhi and Mumbai in India. Africa, Europe, Russia and island resorts in the Indian Ocean are other popular destinations. Scott Glenn, director of sales at Empire Aviation Group said they have seen increased demand from New Delhi and Mumbai from mid-June.
Tandel said the biggest rush is of passengers from India flying into the UAE and also from Riyadh and other GCC countries. “We operated a Delhi-Dubai flight with 14 passengers on Friday, Bangalore and Mumbai to Dubai routes are flying today, Kuwait-Mumbai, Riyadh-Mumbai, and Riyadh-Chennai among others in the coming weeks,” she said.
According to Hanna, one of the most sought after routes is from Riyadh to Dubai. “Lots of businesses have branches in Saudi and their employees are stuck there.”
He said Dubai to Moscow is also a popular route as many Russian expats want to return home.
Anjana Sankar is a journalist by profession and a humanist by passion. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.
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