GI Aviation is the first company in the Middle East and North Africa that has obtained the necessary licencing to commercially operate single-engine aircraft. Captain Patrick Gordon MSc, General Manager, GI Aviation, even pointed to UAE specific regulation that makes it illegal for single engine aeroplanes to operate after dark, from which GI Aviation has been successful in acquiring a complete exemption.
The company is a little over a year old and is seeking to offer affordable private charter flight to the region.
“I’ve been in the Middle East almost 40 years doing all kinds of VIP transport and charter flying,” said Gordon. “The history of charter flying here is that of big twin engine jets at least. There’s never been anything at the Uber-level to provide transportation to people, and that’s what we’re trying to do, to be the Uber in air transportation here.”
The key opportunity for this form of transport, Gordon believes, lies in the corporate market. “We’re looking at C-level executives on down. The Chairman of the board, if it’s a big enough company, might have access to, or maybe even his own aeroplane. We’re looking at Chief Financial Officers, maybe the occasional CEO, Chief Operating Officers, something like this.”
Although the cost of a flight might at first look appear to be in absolute numbers higher than that of traditional business class flights with an established airline, this is not fully taking into account all of the factors at play, argues Gordon.
“We’re trying to enter this aeroplane as a business tool at a cost-effective and efficient level. You want to take into consideration executive time cost and executive time value,” said Gordon. Executive time cost is simply the total cost to the employer of the executive, down to his total package, housing allowance, and ticket costs. There is no return on this cost for the company when taking the traditional airline route which requires an executive to be present at the airport for a longer period of time and also constrains transport times within an airline’s schedule.
In addition, the value of an executive’s time can decrease significantly whilst taking a traditional airline route. “You come to the airline and you sit for an hour and a half at the airport. Eventually you get on the airplane and that’s a two hour flight that you can’t do anything on – there might be someone looking over your shoulder, you can’t do any business,” said Gordon. “Now on the other hand with us all that time on the aeroplane you’re with your own team, you can get ready for an upcoming meeting, you can debrief after the meeting.”
One real-world example that Gordon highlighted was of a legal firm that GI Aviation has been in contact with. Whilst sitting on the airline, the firm is wasting valuable billable hours which don’t even necessarily have to be spent on the project on hand but on another project elsewhere. “When you figure all of these costs and it’s really an economical way to travel,” added Gordon.
Executive payrolls can often be somewhat expensive, especially in the Middle East, the proposition GI Aviation offers is to more efficiently make sure of this cost. “It’s a business tool that’s affordable,” said Gordon. “We recently took a team of bankers from here to Riyadh. They did meetings in two different cities in Riyadh and then we flew them back. It’s really very easily done in a day. We had another request to go from Abu Dhabi to Kuwait to Bahrain and then back in one day. You can’t really do that very easily with an airline schedule and if you do it in a twin-engine jet it’s going to be quite expensive. We’re kind of in that bottom end of the cost-range.”
GI Aviation operated the Pilatus PC12-NG aircraft, a Swiss-made, single engine turbo prop aeroplane that seats between six and eight passengers. “It’s a really sturdily built aeroplane and the Swiss don’t provide at a poor quality. Whatever you buy that’s Swiss from their chocolates to their watches or their tunnel boring equipment, it’s all first rate.” Furthermore, passengers are able to relax aboard in the aeroplane’s BMW-designed interior. Currently the company operates two such aircraft with a staff of six experienced pilots.