The business aviation industry in the Middle East must evolve if it is to effectively confront the growing threat to its VIP customer base from the major carriers. This advice was issued at the MEBAA conference by Homaid Al Shimmari, chief executive of Abu Dhabi investment firm and owner of Piaggio Aerospace, Mubadala.
“This is an exciting time for the industry,” said Al Shimmari at the Dubai-based event, which was held on the eve of MEBAA. “But it must find a way to unravel in order to compete, grow and evolve.”
He says leading international carriers such as Etihad, Emirates and British Airways have compelling first-class offerings that are challenging the traditional business aircraft model. “Many airlines are looking at the premium travel segment and we have to stay one step ahead of the game in order to fend of this challenge,” says Al Shimmari.
“Business aviation currently offers a time and flexibility advance over the airlines through its fixed base operator networks,” he continues.”But what will happen when the airlines and airports get their act together and offer similar service for their VIP travellers? This will pose an even greater challenge to us.”
Al Shimmari describes the business aviation industry as “fragmented” with too many players across the sector chasing the same defined customer base. “From aircraft manufacturing, and operations to maintenance and support, there too many companies competing for the same business. If we are to remain relevant, it is time to think about consolidation within all the sectors. Only then can we address the value chain for our customers,” says Al Shimmari.
Technology, he argues, is helping to boost the quality, durability and cost of owning and operating an aircraft. “We must look at making similar cost savings elsewhere from catering to passenger handling. As a customer-based industry we must face the fact that our customers want more for less,” says Al Shimmari.