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UAE travellers fly ‘private’ to beat UK airport crisis


Private jet services in the UAE and the Gulf are back in heavy demand as wealthy travellers go back to chartered flights to get to the UK.

The Dubai-based DC Aviation Al-Futtaim has seen a 70 per cent increase in demand for private jet travel to the UK in July over June. Much the same frequency is being recorded by other top chartered jet operators.

“Frustrated holidaymakers in the UK are clubbing together to book private jets to beat Britain’s airport chaos, and in Dubai, we have seen a similar pattern,” said Holger Ostheimer, Managing Director, DC Aviation Al-Futtaim.

Due to severe staff shortages, Heathrow introduced a limit of 100,000 daily departing passengers on July 12 and said at the time that the measure would stay in place for two months. On Monday, the airport operator’s CEO told Bloomberg that the daily cap on passengers handled restrictions might stay on for at least another year.

Landing permit delays

But then, flying to London on a charter plane is not that straightforward nowadays. Post-Brexit, all non-scheduled charter flights from EU countries to the UK require a landing permit prior to departure. For those flying into London from Europe or the Middle East, a landing permit can take 24-72 hours, said Adel Mardini, founder and CEO, Jetex, a Dubai-based aviation firm. “In business aviation, this is a very long time – if you are flying to Dubai, you can ready your trip in 3-6 hours. We saw a lot of private jet flights being cancelled because of the new regulation.”

The Jetex CEO said that the operator’s UK numbers have gone up in light of the cancelled flights. “A lot of passengers came to uswho would earlier book First or Business class – during the pandemic and saw a big difference,” he added. “These people will never go back to flying commercial airlines.”

The private jet business boomed following the 2020 outbreak as commercial flights came to a complete halt. Last year, Jetex flew more than 22,000 flights from Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International airports.

Europe-wide crisis

The current crisis in UK and Europe can be traced back to the mass layoffs conducted by airlines and airports at the peak of the pandemic.

Over the last few months, thousands of flights have been cancelled by airlines such as British Airways, Wizz Air and Easyjet as they grapple with staffing deficits. UAE’s airlines avoided this by ramping up recruitment early and so did private jet firms.

“In this part of the world, the infrastructure is very strong, and resources are readily available,” said Mardini.

Russia challenge

The Russia-Ukraine conflict could have been devastating for UAE’s private jet operators, but they were quick to capitalize on demand from other markets. “We did not see a drop in business even though Russia holds a big portion of the UAE market,” said Mardini. “Any impact was offset by travellers coming in from new markets such as Europe, China, and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States).”

Plus, later this year, there will be the FIFA World Cup set to start in Doha – and that’s going to be a bumper time.

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