VIP business aircraft services provider Al Jaber Aviation is gearing up to launch the Middle East’s first point-to-point, branded air taxi service in early December and hopes to expand the operation into Europe within the next 18 months.
The service is branded Sky Limo to reflect Abu Dhabi-headquartered AJA’s high level of bespoke customer service and to draw a distinction between the low-frills, low-cost service synonymous with traditional air taxi operations.
“We have been looking to launch this service for some time,” says Mark Pierotti, chief operating officer of the Al Bateen airport-based company, which operates a growing fleet VIP-configured business jets, including two Embraer Lineage 1000s and an Airbus ACJ318.
“The opportunity came our way two months ago when an owner of a Hawker 800XP – registration A6-GAL – wanted to find a partner to do something with their aircraft.”
Sky Limo is targeted at executives who are looking to do short, regional hops without the expense of larger-cabin, longer-range jets.
“Many senior executives are looking to make day trips around the region for business – Bahrain to Baghdad, or Kuwait to Istanbul, for example – and this ad hoc, point-to-point, service-focused offering is simply not possible with the airlines,” Pierotti says
He suggests travellers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are prepared to seek out the best mode of transport for their needs.
“With Sky Limo, there are no schedules. It fits around the customer’s timetable. It is a great concept. Air taxi’s time has come,” he adds.
AJA admits the launch costs for Sky Limo are high and the service is not expected to generate a large profit for the company. This, however, does not appear to be a concern for Pierotti.
“Not only does Sky Limo expand our service offering for existing customers, it should also help to attract new business by lowering the entry barrier to private aircraft travel,” he says.
Sky Limo will add a second 800XP next year, and AJA is also hoping to add managed Embraer Phenom 300s to the fleet as soon as the opportunity arises. “These high-performance light business jets will get in and out of most airports in the Middle East,” he says. “By the end of the decade we hope to have 10 aircraft – light and midsize business jets – in the Sky Limo inventory,” Pierotti continues.
The five-year-old company is also looking to expand the service to Europe within the next 18 months with “placement partners” in key destinations such as Malta, Greece and Switzerland. “Our plan is to have a suite of [strategically placed] aircraft on call,” says Pierotti.