x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Air travel VIP style: it's a breeze

Abu Dhabi Air Expo: Arrivals are increasing at Al Bateen, the Middle East's only private airport, which is hosting the second annual Abu Dhabi Air Expo this week.

Some of the aircraft on display during the expo at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi this week. Sammy Dallal / The National
Some of the aircraft on display during the expo at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi this week. Sammy Dallal / The National

For most people, flying is far from an enjoyable experience.

After being in the air for what often feels like hours on end, you queue to get off the plane before standing in another line to have your passport stamped.

And once that is done, you hang around some more to wait for your luggage.

But for VIPs flying into Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen Executive Airport, the arrivals process is like a dream.

"The plane is parked in front of the VIP lounge," said Faisal Fayaz, a senior fixed base operations officer with DhabiJet, which provides all of the handling services for aircraft landing at Al Bateen.

"You just walk out, go to the VIP lounge, sit for five minutes until your passport gets processed. Outside the car would be waiting for you and you would leave. That's the way it works."

It is perhaps no wonder arrivals are increasing at Al Bateen, the Middle East's only private airport, which is hosting the second annual Abu Dhabi Air Expo this week.

In the past 12 months, DhabiJet welcomed more than 440 new aircraft registrations - evidence of the 40 per cent year-on-year increase in private flights at the airport.

And during last year's Formula One race, movements were up 60 per cent compared with the same period in 2011.

The company expects another surge this year.

"There were maybe 50 [movements] and out of that number, 25 stayed on for four or five days," said Mr Fayaz.

"They came from all different parts of the world. We had some celebrities as well like Michael Schumacher."

And it seems that VIPs like what they see.

DhabiJet was named second in this year's FBO (fixed-base operations) survey conducted by European Business Air News magazine.

People taking part in the survey were offered the chance to choose their favourite FBO, handler or agent from more than 1,700 options.

"We are constantly focused on delivering a high quality of service to what is a very discerning clientele," said Marios Belidis, a DhabiJet senior FBO manager.

But despite the luxurious landing environment, most VIPs are like the rest of us, according to Mr Fayaz.

"They like to leave the airport as soon as possible, all of them," he said. "Even as a normal passenger when you land in any country or any airport, what do you want to do? Go as quickly as possible through immigration.

"And that is our aim, to make the passenger wait as little time as possible."

DhabiJet aims to make them wait no longer than between five to eight minutes, he said.

They are offered Arabic coffee and dates while they wait, but most do not want that as they have everything available on their aircraft.

The people who use the airport come from all over, but they do not always stay that long in Abu Dhabi. Some just come to have lunch.

"It's like getting in your car and deciding to go to Dubai. With private aviation it is countries. They say things like let's go to the UK today," added Mr Fayaz.

 

gduncan@thenational.ae