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The private jet industry is in its golden era

Despite global economic slowdowns, the private aviation industry is thriving. The market, one of the few to benefit from the pandemic, has been growing steadily year on year since 2021 when it was worth an estimated $USD 23.6 billion. It is now predicted to reach nearly $USD 37 million by 2028.

Demand for private jet services is particularly strong in the Middle East region which boasts a market size worth $USD 566 million, predicted to reach $USD 943 million by 2029.  

Here’s a look at five major factors driving the boom of the private aviation industry in the Middle East and how it’s evolving into a viable option for a wider range of travellers.  

    1. Millionaire migration

    One simple reason for the rise in demand for private aviation services in the Middle East is the growing number of HNWIs and UHNWIs migrating to the region.

    According to Henley & Partners World’s Wealthiest Cities Report 2023, Dubai is home to 68,400 HNWIs, 202 centi-millionaires and 15 billionaires. Centi-millionaire growth is expected to rise by 78% over the next ten years.

    In 2023, the highest inflow of HNWIs came from China, with approximately 13,500 choosing to relocate and settle in Dubai.

    Dubai’s appeal is due to business-friendly regulations such as its golden visa programme, the tax benefits offered by its free zones, and its reputation as a world-leading luxury lifestyle hub. In fact, global real estate consultancy Knight Frank’s Super Wealth Hub report ranks Dubai as the number one city for luxurious lifestyle in the Asia Pacific region. 

    Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is also seeing a marked growth in its HNWIs population. Numbers are forecast to grow by 90%, from 18,200 in 2023 to 35,000 in 2033.

    2. Strategic geographical location

    The UAE is also ideally located for HNWIs and business leaders travelling to and from the region. Set at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, the UAE is considered a strategic link, connecting the East and West.

    According to Dubai-based business travel specialists Vista Global, Europe is one of the main destinations for flights from the Middle East.

    The company also reported an exceptional 74% growth in its regional operations during 2023 compared to the previous year.

    There’s also been a significant rise in demand for long-range travel to and from Asia. Global private aviation group VistaJet reported an impressive 68% growth in flight hours year-on-year in September 2023, driven by its rapid expansion in the Asian market.

    As in the Middle East, there’s a correlation between the demand for private flight services and the increase of HNWIs in the Asia region. Both China and India are seeing significant growth in centi-millionaire numbers, which are projected to rise over the next ten years. This could lead to more demand for exclusive inbound and outbound services to the Arab Gulf region.

    3. Growing demand for business jets

      Typically associated with celebrities, royalty, state heads and UNHWIs, private aviation is fast becoming the preferred choice of many business executives.

      For busy companies, private flying offers time efficiency, flexibility and convenience that commercial airlines cannot provide. New technology such as improved navigation systems can help reduce travel times and get busy executives to vital meetings and multiple destinations in one day. Private jets equipped with onboard WiFi allow leaders to remain productive by holding meetings or negotiating deals from their boardroom in the sky.

      The growing demand for business jets is driven by the influx of businesses setting up or expanding into the Middle East region, especially Dubai. In the first half of 2023, over 30,000 businesses registered with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce – a 43% increase on the previous year.

      The more businesses move to the region, the higher the demand for business jets. Executive Chairman of the Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Ali Alnaqbi describes the growing popularity of private jets for business use as a ‘tool for productivity’ with ‘more than 80% utilisation of business aviation for business purposes’.

      Infrastructure is also being developed to support the growth of the business aviation market. Airport expansion projects such as in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport will mean more allocated spaces and luxury services for business charter jets.

      Dubai South Free Zone, home to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Aerospace Hub, offers a dedicated aviation ecosystem. Established players and startups in the business aviation sector can enjoy the advantages of a world-leading aerospace infrastructure in addition to free zone benefits and services.

      4. More flexible and affordable options

      There’s no doubt that private air travel is generally considered a luxury perk, only available to the super-wealthy. However, there’s been a marked increase in private jet services, propelling the industry’s expansion.

      The following offer accessible options for those who wish to travel in true VIP style without the cost of full ownership:

      • On-demand charters – a flexible and convenient option that offers a wide choice of aircraft types and a tailored service based on your needs, time requirements and destination.
      • Aircraft leasing – this allows you to enjoy exclusive use of an aircraft without the upfront costs of full ownership or the worries and risks of asset depreciation.
      • Jet membership and jet card programmes – especially popular in the Middle East, various programmes offer quick and flexible access to a fleet of jets at a lower price than chartering a flight.

      5. Sustainable development

      It’s impossible to talk about the future of the private aviation industry without addressing the question of sustainability. When it comes to environmental impact, the subject of private aviation is a contentious one. Commercial aircraft and general aviation may contribute more CO2 emissions but, per passenger, private jets are more polluting.

      But it’s for precisely this reason that the private and business aviation sector is committed to finding sustainable solutions to ensure the future growth of the industry – solutions that help reduce carbon footprints and create exciting opportunities in the Green AeroTech sector.

      The UAE has the highest number of private jet owners in the GCC, but it is also committed to finding sustainable aviation solutions. 

      With scarce biological materials available to produce sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), the UAE government is considering a power-to-liquid (PtL) alternative generated by intense sunshine and high winds. This naturally abundant domestic SAF alternative could feasibly produce up to 11 million tonnes – 70% of the national jet consumption by 2050. 

      Not only would this align the UAE with its 2025 net zero target, but it would also create many opportunities for Green AeroTech startups.

      New technologies are also driving the private aviation industry towards a more sustainable future. These include innovations such as hybrid and electric engines, lightweight aluminium construction materials, advanced navigation systems, and noise-reduction systems.

      The thriving private jet market is continuing to grow, and it looks like it’s here to stay. A wider clientele base and commitment to finding sustainable solutions offer promising opportunities for a number of sub-sector industries. As more businesses flood into the Middle East, the private aviation industry will continue to boom. If private jet providers can offer a luxurious and exceptional flying experience with minimum environmental impact, this niche market can look forward to a secure and sustainable future.

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