The Middle East Business Aviation Association’s current priorities are the continuation of policy drafting and procedures for business aviation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, says MEBAA founding chairman Ali Al Naqbi.

“I continue promoting the business aviation requirement of access to airports through governments to make sure they provide easier access to more business aviation airports across the region,” he told ShowNews. MEBAA also continues to fight illegal flights and the gray market. “This is proving to be a challenge to everybody. There are a lot of issues we’re facing, but these are top of the list.”

The fight against ISIS, ISIL or IS in Iraq and Syria is affecting business aviation in indirect ways. “There used to be a lot of (business) aircraft in Northern Iraq, but this fleet has been reduced and affected. Aircraft have been repositioned from the north of Iraq and dispersed to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other countries. Their flights continue of course, but from different countries,” Al Naqbi told Show News.

“Syria does not have any operators of business aircraft…but the war (there is impacting on) neighboring countries as overflights have been badly affected and aircraft now have to fly longer routes to avoid the area. This is costing a lot more money in fuel, and as a consequence charter fees have become more expensive.” A typical flight from Dubai to Beirut that used to take three to three-and-a-half hours now takes up to four-and-a-half hours. “The civil aviation authorities of Jordan and Beirut (Lebanon) and other countries have been directly impacted by this.”

Nonetheless, business jet activity is actually growing strongly in the MENA countries, with this year’s movements up 12% over 2013 to date. Al Naqbi expects the final figure to increase 11%-12% by year’s end. There is more traffic to and from Asia, some from Africa and “surprisingly, a lot of activity coming to our part of the world from Europe.”

After this summer’s runway resurfacing and closures at Dubai International Airport (DXB) many thought that business aviation flights would not be allowed back in and would have to use Dubai World Central (DWC) at Jebel Ali instead. “After the re-opening of the runways there was a lot of pressure, and selected aircraft are allowed to land as long as they’ve got slots,” Al Naqbi says. Flights are allowed into DXB for maintenance at the two MROs operated by Jet Aviation and ExecuJet. That will continue,”

Some 80-90% of business aviation flights are now operating into DWC. “Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum (chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and of Emirates Group) says that eventually all business aircraft will go to DWC.”

FBO facilities at DWC are crowded, with four companies using part of the current passenger terminal. Building of a new permanent standalone facility should start in December and will border the vast ramp near the DC Aviation Al-Futtaim FBO/MRO complex. MEBAA is at Booth 1643.