x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Empire Aviation flies into India

Dubai-based Empire Aviation is opening an office in Mumbai to cater to Indian demand for luxury air services.

India's burgeoning economy has drawn another UAE executive jet company looking to expand into the subcontinent.

Empire Aviation, based in Dubai, aims to set up operations in India and open a branch office in Mumbai by the middle of this year.

It follows Abu Dhabi's Royal Jet, which formed a partnership with an Indian company in December to boost its business there.

Steve Hartley, the executive director of Empire Aviation, said the time was right to expand into India as the company positioned itself to manage business jets on behalf of wealthy clients.

"Market reports suggest that there are [about] 130 to 140 private jets currently based in the market, covering all the major manufacturers," Mr Hartley said.

"The market opportunity is especially attractive for our aircraft management services, in which we take owners' aircraft on to our mixed fleet and manage, operate and charter them on behalf of the owner."

Empire Aviation manages a fleet of more than 20 aircraft for private owners, and its services include chartering the planes to customers.

Its Mumbai branch is expected to be staffed by a local team trained at the company's headquarters at Dubai International Airport, and Empire plans for the branch to begin initial operations with a small fleet.

"Our clear aim is to emulate the success we have achieved in the Middle East," Mr Hartley said.

"We believe our aircraft asset-management business model, with aircraft management services for owners at its core, will work equally effectively in this exciting emerging market for private aviation." This year, Empire joined up with Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces to package executive jet travel and stays at Indian-themed luxury resorts in India and elsewhere.

Its Jet Away to Taj packages stays at the Taj Cape Town in South Africa, the Rambagh Palace Jaipur and Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, both in India, and two resorts in the Maldives.

In December, Royal Jet made its move into India when it partnered with Aviation Services Management, a provider of support services including flight support, landing permits, ground handling and crew management.

Fahad Wali, the acting commercial vice president of Royal Jet, said last year there were "excellent opportunities" for business aviation across the Indian subcontinent.

"The number of high net worth individuals in India is experiencing considerable growth," Mr Wali said.

igale@thenational.ae