With business picking up so far in 2011, Dubai-based Empire Aviation Group (EAG) says it is opening a branch in India to take advantage of growing private jet opportunities that are now available in the South Asian country.
Formed in 2007, AEG operates one of the region’s largest managed fleets of business jets, with more than 20 aircraft under management operating out of Dubai International Airport. The company offers private jet sales, management, charter, and finance.
Paras Dhamecha, executive director at EAG, said that despite the economic challenges in recent years the company has seen steady annual growth, with 2011 being no exception. “If the first quarter is anything to go by, 2011 is looking very good for us. We’ve had more interest in aircraft acquisitions in the first quarter of 2011 than we had all of last year,” he said.
The main factor that is driving more people to look at purchasing private jet aircraft is the drop in prices that occurred in recent years. “People who have the ability and the cash are realizing that today is a good opportunity to buy airplanes and get the right kind of value, as obviously the bottom fell off at the end of 2008,” he noted. “So before prices start stabilizing people are going out there and buying.”
Expansion into India
EAG made the decision to open its first operation outside Dubai after carefully studying the Indian market for many years. “I think India has been a market that a lot of people have watched for many years, but we didn’t want to do anything until our foundation and structure was strong here (in Dubai). I think now with almost four years of operation, we feel we have reached that stage where we are strong enough on the ground here to be able to replicate those models in other parts of the world.”
He said the company’s goal was to expand into a region that was both geographically accessible and presented a strong opportunity for growth. “The beauty of India is that geographically it is large, and because of that there are a lot of requirements for private airplanes to fly within the country. On a lesser scale, it is comparable to the likes of Western Europe and the US where there is a lot of internal movement but not all areas are necessarily well connected by the airlines,” he said. The company’s initial focus in India will be aircraft management and sales, and it is already in talks with two or three owners on management deals.
The company believes that opportunities in the Middle East private jet market are more limited because it is becoming oversaturated. “In a sense there is not much room for a lot of people to jump into the region because all you are doing is diluting a new opportunity. We did see an opportunity in Saudi Arabia, but the legislation was not as crystal clear as India in terms of the operation, and there are already a lot of players there. And the truth is, if you look at it logistically, India and Saudi Arabia are almost the same distance from Dubai. Still, I think Saudi is very much on the radar, it’s just a question of how and when,” he said.
EAG is growing in other ways, as it just added two Falcon 7Xs to its managed fleet with a third set to join soon. Dhamecha says there is a possibility that the company might add another 4-5 planes before the year is over.
Also this year, EAG has begun managing the Middle East’s first dedicated air ambulance service and announced a tie-in with Taj Hotels to offer jet-inclusive luxury charter packages through its Lifestyle@Empire division.