x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Abu Dhabi's Royal Jet sheds jobs

Abu Dhabi-based Royal Jet has streamlined operations after a strategic review.

The company has a fleet of 11 executive jets. Courtesy of Royal Jet.
The company has a fleet of 11 executive jets. Courtesy of Royal Jet.

Royal Jet, the Middle East's largest executive jet operator, has cut jobs across the company as it undergoes a sweeping review of its operations.

The changes come as demand for business jet charters among corporate travellers has fallen by about 25 per cent in the region in the years after the economic downturn and as the industry's recovery is being hampered by regional unrest.

Officials at the company, which employs 325 staff and is based in Abu Dhabi, described the cuts as "relatively minor" and part of normal business practices to ensure continued profitability.

But it also acknowledged the strategic review had led to redundancies across various departments including commercial, finance, administration, human resources and marketing.

"Market conditions, competitive factors, pricing and the global economy have all changed significantly," said Shane O'Hare, the chief executive of Royal Jet. "We undertook a review and made a realignment with our strategic goals.

"We looked at every element of the business where we can have a better, leaner, more productive, more efficient organisation."

Aviation and aerospace are key economic growth drivers for the UAE economy, according to the Government's development plans, with the country attracting professionals for passenger airlines, maintenance companies, cargo airlines and executive jet operators. Some executive jet companies have hired staff let go by Royal Jet.

The company declined to describe the extent of the redundancies but stressed it did not affect staffing in service quality and safety. Despite the changes, Royal Jet has continued to be profitable and expects its business to grow 15 per cent this year, Mr O'Hare said.

The company has a fleet of 11 executive jets including six Boeing 737s, making it the largest Boeing business jet operator in the world. A major share of its business comes from Abu Dhabi Government agencies and corporations and high net-worth individuals.

It also markets its services internationally including in the UK, Switzerland and China. The company's two shareholders are the state-owned Presidential Flight and Abu Dhabi Aviation.

While Europe and the US have fared worse with corporate demand for executive jets down as much as 40 per cent, the Middle East region has also suffered, Mr O'Hare said.

"We've had the private jet industry hit hard from the global recession," he said, noting several European operators had relocated aircraft to the Middle East to try to ride out the downturn.

"Since December, market conditions have become more stable, however, and are returning to growth pattern. This year I am pleased to say the market is coming back."

igale@thenational.ae