x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

2010 was the year of the private jet for Abu Dhabi

Al Bateen Executive Airport, the only dedicated airport for business jets, saw traffic rise last year.

Al Bateen Executive Airport experienced a surge in business last year. Andrew Henderson / The National
Al Bateen Executive Airport experienced a surge in business last year. Andrew Henderson / The National

Abu Dhabi's dedicated airport for executive jets saw business jump 36 per cent last year, as new operators commenced operations and it completed infrastructure upgrades.

Al Bateen Executive Airport, located on the island of Abu Dhabi, handled nearly 8,000 take-offs and landings last year, after it was converted from a military airbase in 2008 and recertified as a civil airport in June 2009.

The airport is operated and managed by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), and the company said the results demonstrated the success of the airport in attracting corporate and VIP clients into what it called the only dedicated business aviation airport in the GCC.

Last year was a "transformational year in the airport's history," said Steve Jones, the general manager of Al Bateen Executive Airport.

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The increase in traffic was driven by the airport's investment in new facilities, competitive pricing, and Abu Dhabi's developing calendar of international events such as the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, he said.

In December, Ali al Naqbi, the founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), predicted the UAE's growth in business aviation would see it overtake Saudi Arabia. The UAE now has drawn nearly level, with almost 160 private jets in each country, MEBAA statistics show.

"Saudi Arabia was far ahead in the business aviation market," he said. "But now the UAE is really catching up from every angle, including more fixed bases of operation, more charter operators and more aircraft."

In 2008 ADAC said it would invest Dh200 million (US$54m) to develop an end-to-end business jet facility at Al Bateen including VIP and "VVIP" passenger terminals, airport services, maintenance, repair and overhaul, fuel and handling.

It has coupled the infrastructure expansion with aggressive marketing and last month, the airport announced the reduction of landing fees by 35 per cent and parking fees by 17 per cent.

Mr Jones said the recent installation of an instrumental landing system will boost safety and security standards. This year, the airport plans to complete a crew lounge, a new private terminal, called a fixed base of operations (FBO), and the refurbishment of aircraft hangars and other infrastructure.

Executive jet operators that are currently based at Al Bateen include Al Jaber Aviation, Falcon Aviation, Prestige Jet and XO Jet. The arrival of XO Jet, based in California, followed a $20m investment last year by Aabar, an investment arm of the Government, to create a UAE joint venture.

Other firms, meanwhile, such as Falcon Aviation Services, an operator of helicopter and charter jet services, and Prestige Jet, a charter jet operator, were present prior to 2008 and operated alongside military flights. Royal Jet, the oldest and most established charter firm, is based out of Abu Dhabi International Airport but also uses the airport on an ad hoc basis. igale@thenational.ae