Investment in Al Bateen pays dividends

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Al Bateen Executive Airport, the first dedicated business jet airport of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, began operations the end of 2008 and saw almost 9,800 commercial movements in 2011. General manager Steve Jones expects this total to grow to 12,700 by 2014.

The airport is located 5km from the central business district of Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE. Jones says: “The airport’s strategic location, providing access to the central business district of the city, is one of the key strengths of this facility.”

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has invested $50 million to help turn the former military airport into a business aviation gateway. It now boasts a state-of-the-art flight operations centre and dedicated crew suite alongside the executive terminal, and a business campus offering stand-alone offices as well as full business traveller facilities. A shopping centre complete with banks and a conference centre is under development and a luxury hotel is planned.

Operationally, Al Bateen has more than 90 parking/maintenance spaces in hangars for different aircraft sizes and more than 20 apron parking stands. A new FBO service, DhabiJet, has helped streamline aircraft handling and turnaround. Plans are in hand to develop convert more hangars from military use, build new ones, enhance utility supply and further improve the runway and apron.

The airport saw a 12% increase in aircraft movements in the third quarter of last year, compared with the same period in 2010. Jones says a healthy mix of private aircraft and charter operations, including additional flights by tenant operators, generated the extra traffic.

The fastest growing segment was visiting aircraft using Al Bateen as a regional stopover or as an alternative gateway to Abu Dhabi and the UAE. Visiting aircraft made 202 movements during the quarter, an increase of 42%.

A 15-minute drive from the Yas Island racing circuit, the airport recorded more than 150 business aircraft movements during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix alone. All visiting VIP aircraft using the executive terminal over the week-long duration of the event were offered free landing and parking.

Rotana Jet, which received its AOC in April 2011, operates corporate air charters out of Al Bateen using a Gulfstream G450 and an Embraer Legacy 600. The company has taken a long-term lease on a hangar and maintenance facility at the airport in preparation for a significant scale-up when it takes delivery of an Airbus 319ER in the second quarter of this year.

Meanwhile Jet Aviation Abu Dhabi has been approved to provide line maintenance for business aircraft operators flying into Al Bateen. Michael Rücker, VP and GM of Jet Aviation Dubai, said the development was “very timely” given the rapid increase in the customer base and the number of aircraft movements through the airport.

Gate Gourmet is providing aircraft provisioning and catering services from a new 770sq metre facility now being built at Al Bateen. The contract from ADAC marks Gate Gourmet’s debut in the Middle East with partners Western Group and Sultan International.