Private operators have said the average of chartering a Phenom 100 to Riyadh (for example) for a day trip can cost a traveller Dh22,000 to Dh29,500. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Private jet operators and travel experts anticipate a significant surge in demand for business travel within the GCC once the peak summer travel season concludes in September.

Even though current travel preferences lean towards leaving the Gulf during the summer holidays, there could be a substantial increase in demand for business travel afterwards, especially for private jets.

“Business travel within the GCC is yet to reach its pre-pandemic capacities,” said Ramila Tandel, Charter Sales Manager of Gulf Wings. “Once the summer holidays end, there would be heavy demand for business travel, especially for private jets, to destinations such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha, and Kuwait City.”

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The prediction from industry experts comes shortly after Emirates’ launched an on-demand regional charter service for customers who want to make short trips to various destinations in the GCC from Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC).

The service, separate from the Emirates Executive A319 charter, is offered on the Phenom 100 twin-engine aircraft. The airline explained that the plane could carry a maximum of four passengers to a wide range of GCC destinations within and outside the Emirates network, with quick turnaround points to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and within the UAE (subject to prevailing operating conditions).

“Since this is a four-seater aircraft, the service is good for those wanting to travel to GCC destinations for a quick day trip or an urgent meeting,” said Ramila. “While it would give operators such as us stiff competition, business travel trends in the UAE still lean towards larger groups of ten travellers or more. In this case, the demand would be for slightly bigger jets, including a six- or eight-seater Phenom-100. We have had several requests for those aircraft,” she said.

How much will the service cost?

Emirates is yet to reveal the service costs for the charter. However, a spokesperson for the airline said prices are determined based on the destination airport(s), number of travellers, and any other special requests the customer may have in the air and on the ground.

That said, private operators have said the average of chartering a Phenom 100 to Riyadh (for example) for a day trip can cost a traveller Dh22,000 to Dh29,500.

“Depending on the destination, it could cost a traveller Dh16,600 to Dh18,500 for a shorter trip,” said Ramila. Image Credit: Supplied

Demand for business jets on the rise

Regarding jet sizes, Ahmed Shajeer, Co-Founder of JetzCorp, said, “There was a gap for the light jet engines in the region, and Emirates has filled that demand.” The smaller aircraft is the right size for business travellers wishing to make a quick trip back to nearby GCC countries.

Moreover, demand for private charter flights has consistently stayed high this summer. Shajeer said, “We are seeing bookings for approximately 20-25 flights per month during the summer, which is a 10 to 15 per cent hike compared to last month. We have had some corporate requests; however, most of the demand is for leisure travels to European destinations (Germany, Prague, Italy, and Spain) now.”

According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), business travel in the MEA (Middle East and Africa) region is recovering more rapidly than in any other region. It is expected to return to full pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

“If the total cost of booking a group fare on First Class is higher or the same as booking a private jet, travellers usually opt for the latter,” said Al Khatib.

“Costs and demand for private jets also depend on the group size,” said Ghassan Al Khatib, Head of Products and Partnerships at Ember Lifestyle (a luxury travel consultancy). “Some of the airline’s First Class passengers could look at a private jet instead, especially if travelling in a large group.”

For example, an Emirates First Class ticket to London costs Dh41,875 (Return airfare). If a group fare of 20 pax costs 100,000 pounds or slightly more, the group could opt for a private jet for the same price.

Inter-UAE travel

On the domestic (flights within UAE) front, experts say a service of this nature may not be logistically feasible, and business travellers would be better off driving to their destination. “UAE is not a huge country like Saudi Arabia, so a service of this nature won’t make sense for the domestic travel market. For example, if a (business) traveller has to take a private jet from Dubai to RAK (assuming they are based in the Trade Centre area), they will have to drive to DWC and fly to RAK,” said Shajeer.

That’s a 45-minute drive to the airport and another 30 minutes to the final destination. “They could just drive to RAK, saving them time and resources,” he explained.