Dubai: African rulers and royals from Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia is just some of the passengers Emirates’ private charter operations, launched last September, has attracted, an airline executive said on Tuesday.

Emirates Executive was launched six months ago in a bid to offer high-end private flights to a niche clientele in the global market.

Suresh Lakshman, an executive from Emirates charter division, told the media on Tuesday at the Abu Dhabi Air Expo that the airline is still testing the charter business model. “This business is gradually picking up steam and we’re doing a lot of charters at the moment,” Lakshman said.

Emirates Executive has just the one Airbus A319 in its fleet and has flown around 12 flights since charter operations launched.

Lakshman said key origin markets were in the Gulf, from the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with passengers favouring travel to Europe, Africa and Russia. He said the airline had no current plans to expand its fleet beyond the single aircraft and that it will continue to test the market for a further 12 to 18 months.