In the dusty expanse of what may one day be the world’s biggest aviation gateway, the fixed-base operation of DC Aviation Al-Futtaim stands in virtual splendid isolation next to the runway. The joint venture between the German charter operator and local conglomerate is one of just a handful of buildings at Dubai’s new Al Maktoum airport. Beyond it, to the horizon, the envisioned Dubai World Central mega-development that will envelop the airport remains scrubby, flat desert.

That is not to say activity is scarce at the FBO, which in November marked its first birthday. Business, says general manager Holger Ostheimer, has got off to a flying start, as more operators and owners – fed up with delays at the increasingly busy Dubai International airport – choose Al Maktoum, known by its airport code DWC. “In the last quarter especially we’ve seen a very significant move of traffic to DWC,” he says. “It is becoming a definite trend.”

DC Aviation does not have Al Maktoum quite to itself. Maintenance and aircraft management rivals ExecuJet and Jet Aviation both have a presence in the VIP section of the small passenger terminal, along with flight support provider Jetex. But DC Aviation is the only brand with a fully-fledged base, which comprises a large and luxurious VIP lounge and crew area, offices, a maintenance hangar and an apron – on which, when we visited, four jets were parked.

DC’s main activities at the moment are providing terminal and parking facilities, together with aircraft maintenance – it employs 10 technicians and has approvals for the Bombardier Global Express and Challenger family, the Airbus A320 and the Gulfstream G450 and G550. The venture had hoped to announce at MEBA the launch of its own air operator’s certificate and, with it, a managed aircraft and charter business, but paperwork delays have snarled that until the end of the year.

Once it has its AoC, Ostheimer is convinced DC can build up a substantial fleet of managed aircraft, but he acknowledges that the Middle East is a competitive market. Alongside industry leaders ExecuJet and Jet Aviation – which have large FBOs at Dubai International – and GAMA, which has its operation at nearby Sharjah, there is a host of smaller, locally-owned enterprises offering to run and hire out aircraft on behalf of wealthy owners.

Ostheimer believes the reputation of DC Aviation in the European charter market – the Stuttgart-based former DaimlerChrysler fleet department manages around 25 jets for third parties – and that of 51% owner Al-Futtaim, a heavyweight corporation with interests in construction, property and car distributorships, give it a big point of difference over rivals. DC, he insists, is a “premier service provider, although one that is competitive with other brands”.

The company will launch its aircraft management operation with a single Global Express. But already, says Ostheimer, “negotiations are taking place with owners to transfer aircraft to us. We won’t be sitting on one aircraft for long.” DC’s “high operating standards”, he says, extend to exemplary training for pilots and cabin crew, essential when owners – who may fly their aircraft just 300h a year – need a team they can rely on to be available, efficient and discreet.

While no passengers want to spend longer in an airport lounge than they have to – even one as well-appointed as DC’s – Ostheimer is convinced investing in a high-end facility pays off. “That type of clientele have a high level of expectation in all aspects of their life,” he says. “They appreciate style and class. It’s important to create the right impression and link it with the brand. And if delays should happen, you have a place where they will be happy to wait until their flight is ready to leave.”

For years, the Dubai government and landlord Dubai Airports have been trying to entice business aviation operators out of Dubai International, as slots become increasingly scarce with the growth of Emirates Airline and the economy. The problem is – despite the potential for hold-ups – the hub on the edge of Dubai’s downtown remains a bigger draw than the rather remote DWC – 40min away beyond the far edge of the city when freeways are clear.

This perception, however, is changing, believes Ostheimer, as business aviation gets pushed further down the priorities at Dubai International. “A typical trip for most local business people will involve a morning flight somewhere, with a return home late in the evening after dinner. The trouble is when pilots request a slot for 11.30pm, they might be offered 2.30am,” he says. “The sort of people who own business jets just do not tolerate disruption like that.”

In addition, while DWC may not be handy for Dubai’s government offices and finance district, it is less of a drive to the “new-money” areas of Dubai Marina, Jumeirah and the city’s new upscale housing developments. Ostheimer believes market forces will see him being joined at the new airport by more competitors before too long, although he is relieved by the fact that from his second floor corner office window “I can’t see any construction going on just yet”.

Source: Flight International