Royal Jet is embarking on an aggressive expansion strategy to exploit the burgeoning market for business aviation throughout the Middle East.

The move comes as the Abu Dhabi-based luxury charter provider takes delivery of its fifth Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) sealing its position as the largest operator of the type worldwide.

"The BBJ has been key to our success," says Shane O'Hare, Royal Jet's recently appointed president and chief executive who is spearheading the company's expansion programme.

"The BBJ is instrumental in setting the tone for our business and the demand for the aircraft worldwide has never been so strong particularly from governments and businesses," he says.

O'Hare says the company five-year blueprint builds on the strong economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, where the gross domestic product is growing at a rate of 7-8.5% compared with a global average of 3-5%, he says.

"There is an extraordinary amount of investment taking place here. Aircraft charter is growing at a rate of 30% a year in the Middle East and now is the time to take our business to the next phase," O'Hare says.

Royal Jet is arguably the largest business jet operator in the Middle East with a 17% market share. It operates a mix of aircraft types including the large-cabin Gulfstream G300, Bombardier's light cabin Learjet 35 and mid-size Learjet 55 - which are used heavily for medical evacuation, Middle East charter and passenger services to Europe - an Agusta Bell AB139 helicopter and an VIP-configured Avro RJ85 regional jet, its only managed aircraft to date.

"We are aggressively expanding our management business and are now gearing up to cater for new contracts," O'Hare says.

"Management is an ideal way to expand our fleet without incurring the huge expense of aircraft ownership. Nonetheless we are reviewing our own fleet to assess if the aircraft we have are the right types moving forward."

Royal Jet will assess a range of business jets including the Airbus Corporate Jetliner family and ultra-long-range jets such as the Dassault Falcon 7X. "Within five to seven years we plan to have a fleet of at least 20 business aircraft including managed types," says O'Hare.

Source: Flight International