From first-class seats to private jets: Why some UAE travellers now opt for charter flights

With their top-notch amenities, these aircraft allow passengers not only to rest and relax in suites but also get work done with a high-speed Internet connection



by

SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Thu 8 Dec 2022, 6:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 9 Dec 2022, 7:49 PM

Remember when private jets were the only option to cross borders at one point during the Covid era? Now, although commercial flights have returned to their usual operations, some of those who travelled via jets no longer returned to their first- and business-class cabins — instead, charters have become their way of flying, experts have said.

Such a trend — combined with the major events happening in the region and the relaxation of Covid restrictions around the world — has led to a surge in current demand for charter flights, according to experts who attended this year's Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (Mebaa) show in Dubai.

There are a number of factors behind first-class passengers' shift to private jets — among them are special amenities and technologies that help travellers get work done even in mid-air.

“Connectivity has become a basic requirement for business aviation as a means for improving productivity. Honeywell’s JetWave satellite communications system allows business aviation passengers to connect, stay connected, and optimise the connectivity experience via Inmarsat Aviation’s GX Ka-band network," said Noora Belsalah, project director at Royal Jet, which operates a fleet of 13 private aircraft.

"Passengers will be able to access high-speed Internet to carry out daily work tasks, including video-conferencing meetings."

Besides connectivity, jets also offer top-notch amenities that allow passengers to rest and relax. At Royal Jet, for example, some aircraft come with a suite and a bedroom.

“Due to the features and specs, we offer, business travel by our jets has shown a sharp increase,” said Belsalah.

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Peak travel season

The spike in demand for charter flights in the UAE is also attributed to the major global events held in the region — from the Expo 2020 Dubai to the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, aviation experts said.

“We had heavy inquiries from around the world during the Expo 2020 season, which boosted our reach,” said Marwan Hijazi, CEO of Grace Jet.

The strong demand was a much-needed boost to the business after the slump during the peak of the pandemic.

Grace Jet was among those that had to stop its operations during Covid time, but now, it is doing a lot better. “We are very hopeful to have better years coming, which will lead the private jet charter industry to go beyond what it was in the pre-pandemic era. People are hiring aircraft for business as well as leisure now.”

Captain Hamad Sultan Al Marri, head of flight operations, Royal Jet, added: “Our flights were operational during the pandemic, but due to restrictions in many countries, there was a setback. But the bounce-back rate was quick and better."


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