The rapid growth of Emirates Airline and its low-cost sister Flydubai is squeezing business aviation operators out of the Middle East's busiest airport.

The two fixed-base operators at Dubai International - ExecuJet and Jet Aviation - expect to begin relocating to the city's new Dubai World Central (DWC) airport next year, along with some of the dozens of business aviation services providers based in offices in the airport's free zone.

However, the plan remains controversial because the new airport - in the industrial zone of Jebel Ali - is much further from the city's commercial centre than Dubai International and - although one runway is functional - is still in the early stages of construction. Over the past decade the original Dubai airport has become firmly established as the region's hub for business aviation.

ExecuJet has this month considerably expanded its presence at Dubai International, taking over the next-door FBO formerly run by Executive Flight Services, a subsidiary of Dubai Airports. It acquired EFS's maintenance operation two years ago, giving it two hangars at the airport.

But time appears to be running out for business aviation at Dubai International. Take-off and landing slots are constrained, and with Emirates and Flydubai adding three new aircraft to their fleets each month between them, there are at least 12 fewer stands available for business jets each year, even before the expansion of foreign airlines is accounted for, says Michael Rücker, vice-president and general manager at Jet Aviation Dubai.

The Swiss company plans to have moved some activities to DWC by the time of the next Dubai air show in November 2013 and Rücker expects "95% of business aviation traffic" to have relocated to the new airport within five years.

ExecuJet, meanwhile, is in the "final stages" of commissioning a facility at DWC and expects to begin transferring operations during 2013, although it plans to continue offering services at both airports for several years. ExecuJet Middle East managing director Mike Berry says he is "impressed" by progress at DWC: "The infrastructure is amazing and I have been taken aback by the progress over the past four months."

Dubai Airports says it is positioning DWC "as a more attractive and less congested airport" for business and general aviation. However, Richard Talian, senior vice-president for strategy and development for Dubai Airports, insists operators will not be compelled to vacate the current airport. "Although the increased pressure on capacity at Dubai International will mean that accommodating the requirements of business aviation will become increasingly challenging, we do not plan to enforce any policies which effectively force the sector into a wholesale move," he says.

Source: Flight International