Emirates Group's ground services division Dnata is expanding its business jet charter business following a tie-up with local operator Empire Aviation Group (EAG) to meet the growing demand for premium services in the Gulf.

Dubbed "Luxury Air Travel by Dnata", the new business builds on an existing tie-up with Abu Dhabi-based Royal Jet, says Dnata Travel's divisional senior vice-president Iain Andrew. "We're seeing increasing requests for corporate charters as premium airline seats are often hard to get hold of in the region."

These requests are often made at the last minute, says Andrew: "For example, 10 passengers can show up at Dnata's first-class counter and say 'we want to fly to London now'."

EAG received its air operator's certificate in late 2007 and its fleet comprises six business jets - one Bombardier Challenger 604, one Dassault Falcon 900EX, one Embraer Legacy and three Hawker 800/850XPs. The company operates from one of Dubai International Airport's executive terminals.

Challenger 604
 © EAG

"The agreement is for Empire Aviation to be our preferred supplier," says Andrew, and a "significant" block flying hours agreement is being examined, he adds. "It is not exclusive so we are also talking to other suppliers for additional capacity."

Andrew expects Luxury Air Travel to provide regional charters around the Gulf as well as longer international sectors of up to 6-7h.

With the aircraft costing $4,000 to $6,000 an hour to charter, Andrew says it is can be more cost-effective for a large group than take premium airline seats, with the bonus of having the flexibility of a business jet operation.

EAG recently introduced its fifth and six aircraft, a 13-seat Legacy 600 and a Hawker 850XP, while a Gulfstream GIII is expected to join the fleet this month. "These new aircraft will be offered to the regional business jet charter market, adding capacity where demand is growing strongly," says EAG chief executive Paras Dhamecha.

Source: Flight International