Gama Aviation provides private jets outfitted with high-speed internet, live TV and custom catering services. While its business suffered during the last recession, the company is trying to avoid a similar fate this time around as the global economy falters. Dave Edwards, Gama's managing director in the UAE, explains the company's strategy.
Gama has been around for more than 25 years but only expanded into the Gulf two years ago. How did you try to create business here during the recession?
Opening up in a recession is always going to be a challenge for any company. At the same time, it provided us with some opportunities. There were a few companies having difficulties here.
Who have you focused on while marketing your services?
It is just focusing on the people who still travel. The kind of stuff we saw stop as a business [in the last downturn] was mainly corporate travel. Banks used to do roadshows, where they'd go all over the region, and that stopped almost instantly and hasn't really come back much. Same with bigger corporations abroad. We focus on the customers we have who haven't stopped flying.
What do you say to them?
The one thing we've always gone on about is we sell time. Private jets can bypass airport terminals and not [have customers] stand for hours in security lines. You show up, and you're on your way.
How exactly do you make your case?
Most of it is based on personal interaction, and we spend a lot of time with our customers. We travel a lot of the region to keep in front of them. We have always done this since the beginning, [to show them we're] not just a private airline. We provide the whole service around it: cars on this end, the other end and transfers at terminals. For us, it's mainly keeping in front of the customer and trying to be their travel department.
Is your pitch harder to sell given today's economic uncertainty?
Yes. We [are] viewed as a luxury product, and luxury products around the world were hit as a result of the recession. The thing that we keep coming back to is the time; if your time is that valuable, we get into places with our aircraft that airlines don't go into.
If someone wants to invest in the middle of Africa, or far eastern Russia, that's what we specialise in. They can have their business meetings and be home in 18 hours, rather than two or three days, which it would be by an airline.
Are there any safety concerns going that remote?
We're a full-licensed airline and operate to the same standards as [major carriers]. It's as safe as flying on an airline.