The threat of the illegal charter market in one of the Middle East’s busiest business aviation centres has been thwarted with the ‘grey market’ declared officially dead at Abu Dhabi.

The issue has been the subject of many EBACE debates over recent years, but positive action by operators and Abu Dhabi’s department of transport (DoT) has seen the market eradicated.

Abu Dhabi is a hub for Gulf business aviation traffic through Al Bateen airport – the region’s only specialised business aircraft airport – and following lobbying by the Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) (Booth P099) and stakeholders at the airport the DoT led the campaign to focus on the illegal activities

DoT’s director aviation development & planning, Mohamed Abu Baker Farea, says the intervention followed numerous complaints about grey market operators from bona fide charter operators in the emirate.

“We initially endeavoured to understand the market with stakeholder consultation and then embarked on a consumer awareness campaign, followed by enforcement action and are looking at further preventative measures,” Farea says.

“We wanted to do this because grey market operators may affect safety, it will bring increased accountability to the industry, iron out unfair competition and we are now looking at regulating the charter business.”

Farea says a key preventative success has been the introduction of a private flight declaration form, which has to be completed by the aircraft’s pilot or charterer as part of the departure check system in Abu Dhabi. It also involves the operator proving they have an air operator’s certificate (AOC).

“The minute we announced this, the grey market all but disappeared,” says Farea. “Every uncertified private operator is afraid to come to Abu Dhabi now.”

The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) is now looking at implementing the declaration across the whole of the UAE and the DoT is also looking at enforcement procedures. “If we want to implement heavy fines we need authorisation from other concerned organisations,” he said “but we are really working on it.”

Dr Mark Pierotti, chief operating officer, of one of the largest Al Bateen operators, Al Jaber Aviation (AJA), says that prior to DOT’s involvement, the grey market had been “one of the biggest headaches”, but admits the problem still exists at other UAE airports. “We are really fed up of foreign private aircraft coming and trading here,” he says.

“Locally the industry is really focussing on achieving private category registration and its time will come,” he said. “We got rid of it in Abu Dhabi by reporting uncertified private aircraft operators to the police and DoT because they can undercharge us, and it has now stopped completely at Al Bateen Airport.”

Source: Flight Daily News