Private jet market recovers in Saudi Arabia, as demand for luxury travel rises

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A private jet operator in Saudi Arabia has said that it is witnessing booming demand for luxury travel from wealthy customers as privatized aviation recovers from the COVID-19 slump.

Majid Alshammary, the VP of flight support and in-flight services at Sky Prime, a private jet company operating in the Kingdom, told Al Arabiya English it is witnessing a rise in bookings for private charter flights, saying that it has not only recovered from the fallout of COVID-19 – but is improving on its pre-pandemic figures.

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“It is undeniable that since COVID-19 has struck the world, the private aviation industry has witnessed an operational decline along with other industries, especially the worldwide decline,” he said. “As main players in the industry in KSA, we were affected by a decline by almost 45 percent.”

“However, starting from February 2021, there was a noticeable recovery on demand post-COVID that reached pre-pandemic levels up-to-date, with the market being projected to grow to between 10 and 15 percent in the coming few months.”

Sky Prime is one of several private jet companies in the Kingdom, and charters aircrafts, including the Airbus A319, 320, 330 and 340-200, and various Gulfstream private jets including the G450 and G550. Clients are flown around the world, with the UK and US being popular destinations.

Prices for chartering a private jet vary based on aircraft size, passenger number, destination and the kind of service sought, said Alshammary

“It is worthy to mention that Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major progressive change in society thanks to 2030 vision and is expected to become a key player in aviation in the region, and currently represents 50 percent of the private jet market in MENA region.”

He added that the governmental expenditures and support for private jet infrastructure is expanding and “new business entrants are competing to be part of this booming market share.”

“If we take Sky Prime as a model, due to its excellence in safety, health and service standards, we would say that once the COVID-19 wave is over, we are absolutely positive that more demand on our services will happen, mainly if we take into consideration all the activities, campaigns and events taking place in Saudi Arabia and as more tourists, artists and business partners are flooding from all over the world.

“Sky Prime has been conceived with the idea to be the leader of luxurious travel in the middle east catering for Saudi royalty, ministers, dignitaries VVIPs and elite individuals.”

Chartering a private plane can cost anywhere from $1,300 to over $13,000 per flying hour, depending on the size and type of plane, fuel surcharges, various fees, inflight accommodations, and taxes, according to Linear Air. Plane type and size is the biggest cost factor.

The private jet trend in Saudi Arabi echoes a global one.

Private jet use is forecast to rise five percent this year compared with 2019, according to data from US industrial group Honeywell.

This is in contrast to the number of passengers flying first or business class on commercial flights.

According to data from the International Air Transport Association, premium class journeys were 56 percent lower this summer compared with the same period in 2019.

However, the aviation industry - one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic - have been showing positive signs of recovery across the Gulf.

Speaking ahead of the 2021 Dubai Air Show, held in the United Arab Emirates in November, aviation analysts at consultancy Accenture predicts a 13 percent growth year-on-year in 2022 for commercial aerospace globally.

Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates Airline have reported a strong recovery, narrowing its previous losses with an 86 percent surge in revenue for its half-year earnings for the 2021-2022 financial year. It has announced a huge recruitment driver with plans to hire more than 6,000 staff over the next six months.

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