Aziz Ghorbani, General Manager, Delta World Charter
The global private aviation market is rapidly growing, and is projected to reach $38.34bn in 2029, up from $29.03bn in 2022. Private aviation picked up during the pandemic as charter flights proved to be a necessity for the world during this difficult time.
The UAE’s robust pandemic policy, including a comprehensive testing regime and one of the fastest global vaccine rollout programmes, coupled with an early reopening of the economy and lifting of travel restrictions, has resulted in a surge in visitor numbers and business picking up pace.
Delta World Charter (DWC) flew over 11,000 passengers across 80 flights in the first six months of 2021, generating over $8m in revenue. Fast forward to 2022, and it appears that the growth trajectory is set to continue, given the tremendous pent-up demand for leisure travel. DWC has already received a large number of inquiries and bookings for private charters this summer.
But it isn’t just leisure travel, business travellers are also choosing private aviation because of the flexibility, time efficiency, and wide network. This is in addition to the added benefit of safety, privacy and comfort, at prices approximately proportional to first-class commercial travel. For example, a heavy jet from Dubai to Maldives can take up to 10 passengers from $60,000, which works out to about $6,000 per person. (The price depends on aircraft type and availability.)
Strong inbound and outbound travel trends
According to the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism, the emirate received 6.17 million international visitors from January to May 2022, three times more than the approximately two million recorded in the same period last year. Hotel stays have also surged, with hotels in the UAE registering a growth of 10 percent in Q1 2022, compared to the same period in 2019.
While many inbound and outbound travellers are choosing to fly commercial, a rising number of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs/ UHNWIs) in the Middle East, including VIPs, CEOs and business heads, are making a choice to opt for the most comfortable and risk-free travel option.
Governments too have been increasingly using chartered jets to transport supplies in the last two years – which gave the business a further boost. Furthermore, the ‘Bleisure’ (business and leisure) travel segment also finds soaring popularity in Dubai.
This surge has picked up momentum during and after Expo 2020, which attracted more than 24 million visitors. The event served as a platform for businesses, including SMEs and start-ups, to meet, exchange ideas and enter the UAE market, indirectly stimulating the demand for business and leisure travel.
Business travelers are also choosing private aviation because of the flexibility, time efficiency, and wide network.
Infrastructure and technology advancements support business travel
Infrastructure development intended to support private jets, including more allocated space at airports is also playing a crucial role in propelling the business and corporate travel segment forward. Several regional airports, including in Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, have invested in airport expansion to cater to private and charter planes.
New technology, like better cabin data connectivity and improved navigation systems alongside improved infrastructure will play a key role in sustaining growth in private aviation in the future.
DWC is seeing contract sizes grow significantly across both passenger and air cargo units, and is working around the clock to ensure it has the necessary infrastructure and capabilities in place to ensure the complete flexibility and diversification of its services in the most sustainable way.
DWC reported strong growth in Q1 2022, generating over $26m in revenue between January and March this year. Looking ahead, the market for freight charter services in the cargo division, is rapidly growing, prompting a team expansion and the establishment of new corporate headquarters at the Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA) in the UAE.
The future is ripe for business aviation. Barring macroeconomic challenges and geopolitical tensions, which could hamper growth, the popularity of private jet among corporate travellers is here to stay. Private charter operators must therefore evolve and innovate every aspect of their services to provide the very best value to this rapidly growing client base.