CJI Middle East & Africa: Keeping new customers ‘a challenge’




Retaining new customers to business aviation, in the Middle East and elsewhere, will become progressively more difficult as airlines begin the long journey to resume normal services, according to Mike Berry, Luxaviation Group, President Aviation Services, at CJI’s Middle East & Africa 2020 online conference.

“As borders open and commercial airlines start, people can fall back on the norm. That will be a challenge,” Berry told more than 300 delegates at the conference last week. Responding to a question from Dave Edwards, The Air Charter Association CEO, about what the sector was doing to keep new clients “hooked in”, Berry highlighted the bespoke service business aviation could offer.

“I think its about the overall experience the customer can expect [from private aviation],” said Berry. “With ExecuJet and FBOs, it puts you in a good place to create that ever lasting experience they [new clients] will think about, network about and bring them back [for repeat business].” It was a message the company was reinforcing with videos and social media messages.

‘Entice them to come back’

Fellow panellist Holger Ostheimer, DC Aviation Al-Futtaim, general manager, said new clients’ first contact with business aviation was crucial in forming a lasting impression that would, hopefully, turn prospective clients into long-term customers. “The level of flexibility and bespoke comfort, when people make their first contact with this type of flying, will entice them to come back,” said Ostheimer.

Locating new charter clients had become much easier since the advent of Covid-19. He added. “You used to have to go out and dig deep [to find new charter clients], but now we have people coming to us to enquire,” said Ostheimer.

An upbeat assessment of the prospects for business aviation in the regional and more globally came from Abdul Charafeddin, UAS International Trip Support’s global sales director. From August, business had returned to normal levels, following up to a 90% plummet in activity between April and May. “Growth was not just focused on the Emirates or the Saudi market but spread throughout neighbouring counties,” he told delegates.

‘A lot of room for expansion’

In the longer term, Charafeddin believed the Middle Eastern market for business aviation still had grea growth potential despite the challenges. “We still see a lot of room for expansion.” Asked about the likelihood of consolidation he replied: “As for consolidation, we don’t see this happening or 10,15, 20 years. There’s room for growth at all levels.”

Meanwhile, in a separate session, Charafeddin’s colleague Mohammed Al Husary, Executive President UAS Trip Support, explained how the Covid-19 global pandemic is forcing flight planners to consider a wider range of factors to keep passengers and crew safe and to ensure operations run efficiently. “Flight planners need to plan well in advance of flight operations asking a series of very important questions,” he said.

The free access online conference – Corporate Jet Investor Middle East & Africa 2020 – took place on Wednesday September 16th. You can listen to the conference by registering here.