Al Bateen Executive Airport, the only dedicated airport for business jets, saw traffic rise last year.
Business improves at Al Bateen
Business at Abu Dhabi's dedicated airport for executive jets jumped 36 per cent last year, as new operators added flights and infrastructure upgrades were completed.
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 re-certified as a civil airport in June 2009.
The airport is operated and managed by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), which said the results demonstrated the success of 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 the airport. 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 One Grand Prix, Mr Jones said.
Al Bateen's dedicated facilities have raised a challenge to both Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport, where much of the country's executive jet traffic is handled in the UAE, the second-largest market for business jets after Saudi Arabia.
In December, Ali al Naqbi, the founding chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association, predicted the UAE's growth in business aviation would see it overtake the kingdom.
The UAE now has drawn nearly level, with almost 160 private jets in each country, the association's statistics show.
"Saudi Arabia was far ahead in the business aviation market," Mr al Naqbi 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$54.4m) 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.
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 would boost safety and security standards.
This year, the airport plans to complete a crew lounge, a new private terminaland the refurbishment of aircraft hangars and other infrastructure.
Executive jet operators that are based at Al Bateen include Al Jaber Aviation, Falcon Aviation, Prestige Jet and XOjet.
The arrival of XOjet, based in California, followed a $20m investment last year by Aabar Investments, an arm of the Government, to create a UAE joint venture.
Other companies, such as Falcon Aviation Services, an operator of helicopter and charter jet services, and Prestige Jet, a charter jet operator, were present before 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 Al Bateen airport on an ad-hoc basis.