Abu Dhabi and Dubai remain the powerhouses of business aviation, but other states are building their own infrastructure

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates may be the engines of business aviation in the Gulf, but the region's smaller countries, as well as those in the wider Middle East - including Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon - are fast developing their own home-grown infrastructure to support expanding business aviation traffic.

At Kuwait's main airport, US fixed-base operator Mercury Air Group opened in April the region's largest private aviation terminal.

Owned by Royal Aviation Kuwait but operated by the Los Angeles-based company, the $42 million, 10,000m2 (107,600ft2) three-storey facility includes boutiques, a restaurant and several tiers of lounges catering for everyone from passengers flying on chartered aircraft to heads of state and other "VVIPs" - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently passed through. The facility also features large "shade ports" able to shield up to eight large business jets from the sun.

Business is still building - there are around six aircraft movements a day - but general manager Marvin Williams, who moved from California in April to get the business started, says each month has been busier than the last. "We're expecting this to be a slow burner," he says.


Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi and some of the other Gulf states, conservative Kuwait has made few moves to attract mass tourism or inward investment (although the country is politically very open by the standards of the Arab world, alcohol is banned and traditional dress is common).

However, increasing oil revenues in recent years mean that the country's ruling and business elite is increasingly looking for opportunities to invest abroad and this has helped spark business travel. In addition, a generation of younger, affluent and Western-influenced Kuwaitis are discovering the allure of private jets.

 © Mecury Air Group
Mercury Air Group runs what it caims is the region's biggest terminal, in Kuwait

Kuwait's role as a staging post into Iraq is also a source of much business for the terminal, with construction and security personnel frequently passing through.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, there have been important infrastructure developments too. Its recent political troubles aside, Beirut has long been a favoured hang-out for Saudi and other Gulf Arabs both to do business and for leisure. A new private aviation hangar was opened earlier this year at Rafic Hariri International airport by charter operator and ground-handling company Executive Aircraft Services.

Egypt is pushing to be seen as a business aviation hub connecting North Africa with Europe and the rest of the Arab world as well as an upscale leisure destination in its own right.

Last week's AVEX air show, held at at the airport in the resort destination of Sharm el Sheikh, was designed to give airframers, operators and other suppliers a chance to showcase their products to the growing Egyptian and North African market.

Mercury Air Group runs what it claims is the region's biggest terminal, in Kuwait

Source: Flight International