IN FOCUS: Al Bateen's business aviation gateway to the Gulf

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With the Gulf's three main airports focusing on their role as hubs for their own flag-carriers and commercial airline traffic, Abu Dhabi's Al Bateen wants to be the region's top gateway for private jetusers.

The former military airbase, just 5km from the United Arab Emirates capital's business district, is the Gulf's only dedicated business aviation airport. Since owner Abu Dhabi Airports (ADAC) fully took over the airport from the armed forces last year, it has spent $50 million on an infrastructure revamp and wants to attract third-party service providers.

al bateen airport, abu dhabi airports

 © Abu Dhabi Airports

Owner Abu Dhabi Airports has spent $50 million on Al Bateen since taking it over from the military

In May, ADAC rebranded the main VIP terminal and fixed-base operation to DhabiJet in a bid to widen its appeal. And weeks ago, Jet Aviation became the first third-party maintenance provider at Al Bateen. The Swiss-based General Dynamics subsidiary has had its main Gulf FBO at Dubai International since 2005.

Falcon Aviation Services - a growing fixed-wing and rotorcraft charter provider - has been based at the airport since its days as a military base, and Al Jaber Aviation, an operator of Airbus and Embraer business jets, is a more recent tenant. Further tenants are being sought to fill hangar space vacated by the military.

Traffic has been good, with 7,900 movements in 2010 a 36% increase over the previous year and a further 40% growth in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2010. Around 60% of traffic is helicopters supporting Abu Dhabi's extensive offshore energy sector.

Events such as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix have helped. Last year the airport waived its landing and parking fees during the event and saw almost 100 business jet movements over three days. It plans to do the same at this year's race, held from 11 to 13 November.

Despite the dip in Dubai's fortunes two years ago with the collapse of its property market, demand for business aviation in the region still grows, partly thanks to the UAE's popularity as an upmarket tourist destination. Until now the epicentre - and home to most business aviation operators - has been Dubai International Airport. But as DXB pushes to capacity with the expansion of Emirates, Al Bateen's status as a quick-throughput easy-access alternative to the commercial airports should only be enhanced.