DUBAI: Royal Jet sees revenues rebound

Dubai
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Royal Jet, whose six Boeing Business Jets make it the biggest operator of the 737 variant, is reporting a sharp rebound in fortunes as it pushes into adjacent service areas.

The Abu Dhabi operator is focusing on medevac flights, third-party maintenance and aircraft management along with its core VIP charter business.

Chief executive Shane O'Hare says business has been recovering strongly since the 2009 global crisis, which hit Dubai's financial and property sectors hard, and despite the threat of a number of new rivals including Abu Dhabi-based AJA and Comlux of Switzerland's new Bahrain base.

"We have held at bay the onslaught of competition," he says. "Our revenues have increased by 30% this year and we have an excellent profitability story after we pulled significant figures from our cost base."

Royal Jet - which also operates two Gulfstream G300s, a Bombardier Learjet 60 and an Embraer Lineage - has been heavily targeting the market for shuttling high-net-worth locals to specialist medical centres in the USA and Europe. All its aircraft can be configured as high-tech ambulances.

"Our medevac flights have doubled in the past 18 months. We are operating daily flights, including on our BBJs," said O'Hare.

Another growth segment that Royal Jet has identified is aircraft management. The company recently added its Lineage and a Gulfstream GIVSP on behalf of private owners. "Until now, we have had a more or less on-request operation, but now we want to emphasise this more," he said.

Another service that will make it easier to attract private clients is maintenance, repair and overhaul. Royal Jet is building a two-BBJ hangar next to its fixed-base operation at Abu Dhabi's international airport. It will open at the end of the first quarter.

It is also "in discussions with one of the big providers" about a joint venture to provide MRO services at Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi's dedicated business aviation airport.

However, Royal Jet has no near-term plans to relocate its main base from the international airport. "We have a lot of infrastructure here, including the airport's only FBO, which handles 300 of our own and third-party movements a day. We also provide a service for the presidential flight from there," says O'Hare.

Royal Jet - which is unveiling new crew uniforms at the show - is looking to expand its fleet, although this is likely to be through management contracts rather than acquisition. "We will require another couple of units to continue our current growth trajectory over the next two years," he says. "We are looking at options in the Gulfstream {G1V] size category."

In other developments, Royal Jet signed in October a block charter arrangement with Dubai-based media group MBC.

Although it no longer enjoys the near-monopoly in VIP charter in the Gulf that it did five years ago, Royal Jet - which is owned by Abu Dhabi Aviation and the United Arab Emirates' Presidential Flight Authority - will use the show to highlight its range of offerings and to highlight that it is still the leading brand in the region. "Our message at Dubai is that we are a robust and highly profitable company with some very attractive aircraft," says O'Hare.