Strategic Services

ExecuJet grows rapidly but what lies ahead for the future of the business jet provider?

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By  Barbara Cockburn Published  June 1, 2006

|~||~||~| Mike Berry’s financial background, hands-on approach to business and ability to multi-task has landed him the position of managing director at ExecuJet Middle East. Don’t bother calling Berry on a Tuesday. In fact don’t bother calling the managing director for the next couple of weeks, the man is just too busy. A former finance director for Motorola, the South African has now taken the reigns of one of the fastest growing business jet providers in the Middle East. Last year, ExecuJet Middle East, part of ExecuJet Aviation Group headquartered in Zurich, more than doubled the number of its employees from 36 to 78 with the introduction of a new service facility and dramatically exceeded its budget expectations. In December last year the company introduced aircraft maintenance and is currently constructing a VIP terminal at its headquarters in Dubai’s Airport Free Zone. ExecuJet Middle East is the official sales and distribution agent for Bombardier’s range of Learjet business aircraft in Middle Eastern countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. ExecuJet is also responsible for sales and support of the recently launched German GROB SPn utility jet in the Middle East. Founded in 1999, the vision of a dynamic business jet facility in the region has now become a reality for the company’s shareholders and Berry is adamant ExecuJet is ready to ride on the wave of the Middle East’s rapidly expanding economy. “In the last 18 months the market has dramatically changed. No longer are business jets just used by royals or top VIPs but by business people and senior professionals. “We have tapped into this market with our range of Bombardier aircraft and sales have beaten our expectations with double digit growth year on year.” According to hotels, tour operators and resort companies within the Middle East, personal jet use is shifting into the mainstream of Middle East travel. Forty years after the first flight of the revolutionary Learjet, the Middle East is now the world’s fastest-expanding market for personal jets. Industry experts forecast that the region will account for 8% of the 600-aircraft, $9 billion global personal jet market this year. New scheduled services from Moscow and the huge worldwide publicity for Dubai as a leisure and investment destination are channeling ever more affluent people into the Gulf region, and hotels, tour operators and resort companies are integrating personal jets into their services-package. ExecuJet Middle East, for example, recently signed a deal with the seven-star Le Reve development in Dubai to provide guests with personal jet services. “We are one of the companies that has broadened the jet market by providing flexible options and charter packages. We are opening up new opportunities for the travel industry,” says Berry. The business market is climbing steeply too, according to ExecuJet, thanks partly to the Gulf’s construction and finance boom. Businesspeople are finding themselves forced to jet around the region. This year, the company has already sold a Learjet 40 to a Saudi company and an L60, Challenger 604 and a larger Global Express within the Middle East. However, with such a rapidly expanding market comes fierce competition. There are now several business jet providers, such as Elite Jets and Royal Jet, within the region and this is continuing to expand. For instance Gulf Jet, a new Dubai-based private jet charter company, is launching its operations this summer with three Citation XLS jets and one Citation Sovereign. So how does a business jet provider remain competitive and what makes a company like ExecuJet stand out from the rest? Berry has the answers. “We believe the company is the first in the Middle East to offer the full range of services. Although our core business is sales, we now have operational management, charter, dispatch, maintenance and FBO services to customers across the region. With our new VIP terminal under construction and obtaining GCAA approval to provide maintenance for Bombardier aircraft we can offer our customers a full in-house service, which gives us a competitive edge against our rivals.” He adds: “This venture is further unique in that Bombardier, as an original equipment manufacturer and ExecuJet, as a service provider, are the first to offer full representation and support in the Middle East. It continues the long history of successful collaboration that exists between Bombardier and ExecuJet in the Middle East and elsewhere.” Having firmly established its brand presence in the region, ExecuJet Middle East has begun pioneering the regional sector by offering solutions for all chartered aviation needs, including complex matters such as aviation legislation, maintenance supervision, pilot and cabin attendant recruitment. Berry says: “We can handle everything, making it easier for our customers to sit back and enjoy our services. However, it is up to the customer to decided which services they want.” ExecuJet Middle East Aircraft Management Services is supported by a dedicated Bombardier service facility which launched in December. The 24,000 sq ft facility offers more than 860 high-demand parts for Learjet, Challenger and Global Express as well as the GROB SPn aircraft and can accommodate up to six business aircraft. “This, combined with state-of-the-art facilities, brings with it more than 50 trained full-time engineers, technicians, crew and support staff, aircraft on ground (AOG) maintenance and part support. It also operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” The company holds an Air Operations Certificate issued by the United Arab Emirates Civil Aviation Authority, which ExecuJet claims has made it the first independent business aviation company to receive permission to operate aircraft charter flights from the region. Last year ExecuJet joined forces with GROB to sell its new GROB SPn utility jet. Berry is extremely excited about the new jet, which he believes will allow the company to break into a new market, previously untouched by its Bombardier planes. The SPn will allow those people who can only afford to lease or acquire a turboprop plane to go that one step up. The plane is a hell of a lot for the money spent.” The aircraft is supposed to combine the performance and passenger comfort of a light business jet with the operational versatility of a turboprop. It is priced at around $7.4 million and Berry says: “The GROB SPn offers a superior range payload capability, robust short field performance, exceptional cabin volume and cargo conversion capability never seen before in an aircraft of this size.” First delivery of the planes will take place in late 2007.” In addition to the GROB, ExecuJet has also moved its Middle East and African sales operation and Skyjet International Middle East office to Dubai International Airport, located within the new facility. Former schoolteacher in Cape Town, South Africa, Berry says he is “extremely positive” about the future of the company. So much so that he is confident that he will expand the Middle East branch in the future. However, for now, the managing director wants to focus his concentration into the company’s facility in Dubai’s Airport Free-Zone, but adds: “We are always looking at creating another facility elsewhere in the region.” He would like to add a Saudi Arabia,n facility, but, he says: “Right now I will be to focusing all my efforts on running our current facility to the best of my ability,” he says. With over 70 business aircraft worldwide under its management, ExecuJet has associate sales, flight operations and maintenance capabilities in Europe, South Africa, Australia, the Middle East, Mexico and Australia. The firm is fully able to perform all types of maintenance work on airframes, engines and avionics systems and it has been authorised to service a broad range of business aircraft models, including the Bombardier, the Gulfstream, the Cessna and Pilatus. ExecuJet and Bombardier Business Aircraft have collaborated, since the beginning of the 1990s, to enable the company to share in territories in which Bombardier has awarded Execujet exclusive sales distribution and agency mandates. In over a decade ExecuJet has sold more than 90 new Bombardier business jets and today represents Bombardier Business Aircraft in more than 30 countries worldwide. ||**||

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