The UAE has become the first country in the world to launch an all-woman operated airline services company.
Speaking to GN Guides, Company CEO Emmanuel Dubuisson said he set up the firm in order to cater to the more conservative families in the region, as well as women that just like the idea of a women-only service. This service will not be available to male clients.
Dubuisson said he wanted to raise the profile of women in the region
The privately-owned company, LGO International FZC, has set up its office in Abu Dhabi even though it is registered with the Sharjah Freezone and will provide end-to-end solutions from sourcing aircraft for its women-clients to a complete fit-out according to their needs, including the arrangement of an all-woman crew. The fit-out can include anything from bright pink or all black interiors, leather upholstery or even the installation of a cinema room, games room, bathroom or shower, said Dubuisson.
The key, says Dubuisson, is giving the customer what they want - even if that means adjusting the business model.
"If a particular customer cares more about the number of years of experience of the pilot than his or her gender, then LGO International will focus on this requirement. The needs of the customer come first," he said.
The cost to buy an airplane will depend on its size and model and if it's a new or a used one, he explained. A rough estimate puts it anywhere from US $2 million for a private jet right up to $300 million for a Boeing 747.
“It’s completely up to the client and what she’s looking for,” said Dubuisson, “but when one is investing in a plane, strong advice is vital and this is our primary service."
According to Dubuisson, there will also be the option to rent, but the pricing for this segment is yet to be finalized due to various factors that the client will need to choose from, he explained. But he offers a rental price range of $3500 to $10,000 per trip depending on various factors.
All aircraft sold or rented will be provided by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Falcon Middle East. While there’s no formal partnership with the 100-year old aviation company, its general manager Renaud Cloâtre told GN Guides, the company has a mutual interest in the new concept.
“I think it is a great concept and is ideal in this market where there is gap to cater to business-savvy gulf women,” he said. “We sell a lot of aircraft in the region and this year we’re expecting to sell even more than we did last year, many of whom, we’re hoping will be women.”
But is there a need for an all-woman airline and is the market ready for it? We questioned some high-profile women in the region – the sort of clients LGO international will be hoping to attract.
UAE-based fashion designer Maitha Belhabb, who has her own fashion label called Rumad, said she would personally be interested in this sort of service.
“I’ve been travelling since I opened my eyes to this world,” says Belhabb, “so I think this is a good idea and it wouldn’t only work here in the UAE, but in the wider region including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as they are more conservative.”
The only challenge she feels the company might face is if other commercial airlines begin to provide the same service – a direction she feels the three major regional airlines are moving in.
Belhabb also says the concept would work fantastically during the Hajj and Umrah season and long range flights where tailored services are prime requirements.
Another leading fashion designer, but based in Kuwait, Mashael Al Mutawa, seemed to be more reserved on the concept, but said she’d still be keen to see something like this grow in the region.
“I only travel a couple of times a year, but I’m sure this new service will benefit a big category of women in our society, especially conservative families, who will find it easier for their women to travel on their own. Personally, I think this sort of an airline will provide a more comfortable atmosphere for me, especially during long flights,” she says.
But Dr Shurooq Amin, a leading artist and professor at Kuwait University was all for the concept, saying it will be a great step for raising the profile of women in the GCC, while giving them power over their own flight details and encouraging them to book on their own terms.
“I travel mostly for work, which means either meetings with my representative art gallery in Dubai or for art exhibitions, conferences or cultural events. There are months when I travel three times a month and then possibly three months go by when I don't; it all depends on the time of year. But it is definitely an interesting concept for me and I’d certainly want to give it a try and see how I like it.
Amin feels every concept faces new challenges, but said that shouldn’t stop anyone. “Every new idea is met with resistance. As an artist I am used to that. The people behind this innovative idea should have absolute belief in their concept,” she said.
On a lighter side, she also insists that all women do not want their plane interiors painted pink.
“Women who are independent and strong are going to want more options in their palette choice,” she said. “We are not all walking Barbies; soft, soothing colours are always welcomed, of course, and if you must have pink, make sure it is a muted blush or rose grey, as opposed to that pink of the taxis in Dubai, for example.”
With Saudi Arabia being one of the biggest markets for this sort of a service, we spoke to Nora Al Otaibi - an architect from Jeddah and also an influential fashion designer who runs her own fashion brand called Namour and asked her what this would mean for women in the Kingdom.
So Al Otaibi who travels a lot around the GCC attending fashion shows or for short weekend getaways gave us a bit of a different take on the concept, saying it could easily become a trend among the ladies where birthdays are celebrated in fancy stretch-limousines.
“The only difference here is it will be a bit more posh and in the sky,” she says. “I’ll be the first in line when this happens; I think it’s a fun and helpful concept and women in the GCC are a bit more open to new things”