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EBACE: MEBAA chairman strives for regulatory unity

Ali Alnaqbi may not have as many members in his organisation as his counterparts in the USA and Europe, but the founding and executive chairman of the Middle East Business Aviation Association has to deal with more regulatory authorities.

MEBAA's 260 members are based in 23 countries in the Arabic-speaking world, almost all of them with their own systems for regulating aviation. Trying to persuade these countries to adopt common rules for business aviation is, as Alnaqbi admits, "very challenging".

However, improving the lot of the region's business aviation operators – whether by simplifying regulations, improving airspace or airport access, or making it harder for "grey market" interlopers to undercut licensed charter providers – remains a key objective of MEBAA, 12 years after its foundation.

"We continue to work with all the authorities across our region, trying to unify things as much as possible and persuading them to adopt proper rules to enable the faster growth of business aviation," says Alnaqbi. "It is very challenging but we are on top of it."

One of MEBAA's priorities has been to raise the profile of the grey market, where business aircraft owners operating under the equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 91 rules quietly carry fare-paying passengers, competing unfairly against those who comply with stricter Part 135-type regimes for charter operators. Alnaqbi says efforts to clamp down on the practice in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular have been successful.

Alnaqbi is at EBACE to promote his biennial MEBAA show in Dubai, which takes place on 10-12 December, and he says is on track to break the 500-exhibitor and 10,000-visitor marks – up from 460 exhibitors and around 9,000 attendees in 2016.

MEBAA is also continuing to hold events in other member countries, with its first conference in Tunisia this September, just after one in Saudi Arabia. Its Marrakech show will take place in September 2019 – and outside the Gulf, Morocco is the region's biggest market for business aviation. Next year will also see MEBAA hold an inaugural conference in Egypt, a market that is beginning to stabilise after recent political and economic turmoil.

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