Dubai's Empire Aviation Group has launched a charter and management venture in India, in a move that aims to plug a gap within the country's growing private aviation sector for high-quality business aircraft services, and help grow the region's fleet of midsize and high-end jets.
Steve Hartley, EAG's executive director says the Bengaluru-headquartered venture has been "three years in the making", thanks to "an incredibly frustrating [bureaucratic] experience".
To comply with the country's foreign ownership regulations, EAG has formed a venture with Indian maintenance, repair and overhaul provider and strategic investor Air Works. "We have total control of the day-to-day running of this operation," Hartley explains.
Empire Aviation Group
EAG is one of the largest business jet operators in the Gulf with a fleet of more than 20 aircraft. It hopes to export its high service levels to India, where the standard of rivals is "indifferent", says Hartley. It is not uncommon for passengers to "climb into a filthy aircraft", he says: "The benchmark is low, but we plan to change all that.'
In early November, EAG was awarded a non-scheduled operator's permit by India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and has already added three managed business jets to the line-up, including its first on the Indian register – a large-cabin Embraer Legacy 650.
"We are focusing on midsize business jets upwards, as they provide a better revenue stream for us than smaller aircraft," says Hartley.
EAG is confident about its prospects in the region, and plans to double its fleet year on year over the next four years. "The opportunity is tremendous, but our growth will be controlled," says Hartley.
Flight Fleets Analyzer records an in-service fleet of around 230 business aircraft in India, with around 50% of the inventory positioned in the top half of the sector.