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Why Middle East is key player in private aviation

Youssef Mouallem

At the height of the pandemic, flights ground to a halt and both the travel and aviation industries took immense economic hits.

Just as the pandemic changed the way we work and interact, it has also changed the way we now travel.

Given the recent travel chaos and number of commercial airlines cancelling flights, people are now looking for travel solutions that offer control, flexibility and comfort, in turn steering demand from commercial flights to private aviation.

Also, when national carriers and commercial airliners were not yet ready to perform at full capacity during the pandemic, the private aviation market bridged the gap — a trend we’re seeing continue.

One group in particular are business executives who cannot risk last minute cancelled flights if they have meetings to attend and are relying on the dependency and efficiency private travel offers.

In fact, last year there were 3.3 million private flights around the world, the most on record and it’s likely we will see this grow year on year. We’ve already seen this with our performance results in the first half of 2022 in which membership increased 33%, with 93% more flights, of which 62% of new requests were first time flyers.

Whilst London logged the most private flights, with more than 12,000 in July, according to data collected by the European Business Aviation Association, it’s the Middle East which is proving to be a key player in the exponential growth of the private aviation industry.

Research predicts that the global private jet market is projected to reach $39.84 billion in 2025 from an estimated $25.87 billion in 2021, with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries accounting for a significant share of it. This includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar and with the upcoming FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar, we are already starting to see an influx of requests for chartered flights, and shared shuttle services.

The UAE is commonly associated with high-net-worth individuals and people with a lot of dispensable income; however its business and tech qualities also warrant attention.

It’s a well-established business aviation market and in the first half of 2021, there were 86 per cent more business jet flights taking place. The region itself also offers a world class aviation regulatory environment, infrastructure, and talent which in turn, means they’re more open to tech-based services such as AI usage in aviation.

At XO, we’ve seen demand accelerate across EMEA, growing 77% globally with the Middle East a key market, seeing an increase of 176% in first time flyers, many of whom are opting to become XO members yielding a 400% growth in memberships amongst this group, Whilst we know private aviation is more expensive than commercial travel, we’re keen to highlight the accessibility of shared chartered services, a service we are building steadfastly  in the Middle East and UAE.

The writer is Executive vice-president for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at XO 


Also published on Medium.

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