Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings

The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
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The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings
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Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Dubai-based Vista Global Holding. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 June 2022

Private aviation scales new heights as COVID-19 lifts wings

The GCC and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. (Supplied)
  • We have seen a significant surge in new corporate memberships, says chairman of Vista Global Holding
  • We introduced an entirely new way to fly, with access to an entire worldwide branded fleet, paying only for hours flown, with guaranteed availability and no asset risk

DUBAI: Long ignored by the business class travelers as an ultimate luxury, private jet bookings reached new heights during the pandemic when commercial travel became restricted. Those with critical travel needs had no option but to look to private aviation to fill the void.

“This led to a sudden and massive influx of business travelers flying private for the first time,” said Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of Dubai-based Vista Global Holding, a private aviation portfolio of companies, including VistaJet, the first and only worldwide business aviation company.

Globally, 3.3 million private flights were operational in 2021, which is 7 percent higher than pre-COVID figures, according to WingX, a business aviation intelligence firm based in Germany.




While the UAE has been one of the company’s top destinations, KSA
has shown robust growth, says Thomas Flohr, Chairman of Vista Global Holding

The pandemic allowed private aviation companies like VistaJet to show new clients that flying private can be a financially viable travel solution in the long run.

“Overall, private aviation was well-insulated over the past couple of years,” said Flohr. “Ultimately, the pandemic showed that it does not necessarily work out more expensive. As a result, we have seen a significant surge in new corporate memberships due to organizations recognizing the many benefits we offer in terms of safety, security and accessibility.”

By mid-2021, up to 71 percent of VistaJet’s new requests were from passengers who had not regularly used business aviation solutions in the past.

FASTFACTS

• Globally, 3.3 million private flights were operational in 2021, which is 7 percent higher than pre-COVID figures, according to WingX, a business aviation intelligence firm based in Germany.

• The pandemic allowed private aviation companies like VistaJet to show new clients that flying private can be a financially viable travel solution in the long run.

• By mid-2021, up to 71 percent of VistaJet’s new requests were from passengers who had not regularly used business aviation solutions in the past.

“This shows how people value the ease, security, and accessibility of private aviation,” he said. “While the pandemic certainly provided the catalyst for change and redefined the global aviation landscape, the industry could respond quickly and efficiently to the change which has helped create a permanent shift in perception towards private travel.”

Changing dynamics of private aviation

Overall, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Middle East have been among VistaJet’s biggest markets over the past two years. While the UAE has consistently been one of the company’s top destinations, Saudi Arabia has shown robust growth, particularly over the past six months, with “travel at the highest rate we have ever seen,” according to Flohr.

He credited the surge in travel to domestic demand within the GCC. Still, the company has also witnessed an increase in long-distance travel from the Kingdom and the Middle East overall, mainly to and from the US, followed by Europe.

In turn, these long-distance flights are driving demand for VistaJet’s longest-range aircraft, with requests for its expanding fleet of Bombardier’s Global 7500 among the highest globally.

Overall, private aviation was well-insulated over the past couple of years. Ultimately, the pandemic showed that it does not necessarily work out more expensive.

Thomas Flohr, Chairman of Vista Global Holding

“Travel into Saudi Arabia has also been on the rise, especially during April when VistaJet saw many flights entering Jeddah for Umrah,” said Flohr.

The changes in private travel habits do not stop here. VistaJet Members request longer trips to reach destinations further afield across the globe. In addition, many of them choose to embark on big adventures and far-flung expeditions — on a quest for new, thrilling and memorable moments.

Recent non-stop journeys include St Maarten to Seychelles (14 hours, 45 minutes), Honolulu to Helsinki (13 hours, 30 minutes) and Liège to Jakarta (13 hours, 30 minutes) thanks to VistaJet’s fleet of 10 brand new Global 7500 jets with a range of 7,700 nautical miles.

It is the largest, fastest and longest-range aircraft in business aviation, opening up a new world of long-haul private flying.

“We are also thrilled to see a growing emphasis on sustainability in the decision-making process, with 85 percent of VistaJet members having opted to compensate for their fuel use-related emissions by investing in certified carbon credits worldwide,” he added.

Global ambitions

While Vista is headquartered in the UAE, the chairman’s vision is to create a global private aviation ecosystem.

The recent acquisition of Jet Edge, the fastest-growing North American charter operator, and Air Hamburg, Europe’s leading charter operator, earlier in the year served this ambition.

With these acquisitions, VistaJet is actively scaling its fleet at a time of unprecedented demand and bringing two long-established reputable companies under its umbrella.

It is the latest step in Vista’s transformation of the highly fragmented business aviation ecosystem. It builds on the successful integrations of Apollo Jets, Talon Air and Red Wing Aviation into the brand.

“Following the completion of both transactions, it will bring Vista’s combined global group fleet to over 350 aircraft, including owned and managed, and we expect an increase of around 30 percent flight hours globally,” said Flohr. “In addition, we are also pleased to welcome over 1,000 highly skilled new colleagues to Vista’s family of experts.”

VistaJet currently flies to 96 percent of the globe — essentially anywhere in the world where you can land an aircraft, so they are already present in every market.

“However, when it comes to opportunities for growth, there is still huge potential here in the Middle East,” he said. “I founded VistaJet in 2004 to make flying private simple. We introduced an entirely new way to fly, with access to an entire worldwide branded fleet, paying only for hours flown, with guaranteed availability and no asset risk.”

The opportunity is there to see, and the demand clearly outstrips supply. It will be interesting how long the trend lasts and how VistaJet steers its business in years to come.


Global alliance on green economy launched in Dubai

Global alliance on green economy launched in Dubai
Updated 04 October 2022

Global alliance on green economy launched in Dubai

Global alliance on green economy launched in Dubai
  • UAE’s Economy Ministry is setting up shop inside the immersive virtual world

DUBAI: A “Global Alliance on Green Economy” was launched at the 8th World Green Economy Summit, which concluded in Dubai.

The summit was held under the theme “Climate action leadership through collaboration: The roadmap to net-zero.” A large number of ministers, experts, decision-makers, officials, representatives of institutions, and the academic community from around the world took part in the summit.

The alliance aims to build a coalition of countries, prioritizing a green economy in the context of climate action and sustainable development, to enhance the capacity of developing countries, provide support for their green economy transition projects and exchange knowledge on implementation.

“If we want to fast-track our transition to a green economy, we must all work together, and to do so, we need one platform with one common objective. The UAE Global Alliance on Green Economy seeks to provide such a platform,” said Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE minister of climate change and environment.

Bet on tech

The UAE, which already boasts the world’s tallest skyscraper and has launched a bold Mars mission, now hopes to become a pioneer in the depths of the metaverse.

In a project launched at Dubai’s gleaming Museum of the Future, it announced that the UAE’s Economy Ministry was setting up shop inside the immersive virtual world that is now taking shape. 

If we want to fast-track our transition to a green economy, we must all work together.

Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE minister of climate change and environment

Those who don their virtual reality goggles or use other means to venture within will find a ministry open for business with companies and even ready to sign bilateral agreements with foreign governments, officials said.

The metaverse is an online world where users will eventually be able to game, work and study, its proponents say — although it is still in a “test” phase, the UAE’s economy minister conceded.

Abdulla bin Touq Al-Marri was speaking at the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Assembly, held at the museum whose innovative ring shape decorated with Arabic calligraphy flanks the city’s main thoroughfare.

Representatives of tech giants mingled with entrepreneurs and developers exploring the potential of the metaverse, a network of digital spaces intended as an extension of the physical world.

DFM adopts new methodology

Dubai Financial Market said on Monday it planned to adopt a new methodology for its main equities indices, which will come into effect in the fourth quarter, according to Reuters.

The Dubai bourse’s general index, Shariah index and sector indices, will be calculated by S&P Dow Jones Indices, it said in a statement.

A key improvement among the changes is a limit on the weighting of a listed company to 10 percent from 20 percent, which should result in a larger representation of companies on the DFM’s benchmarks, it said.

The Dubai bourse said the index calculation will be based on actual free float adjusted market capitalization, and that the indices will be rebalanced on a quarterly basis, from semi-annually currently.

The bourse plans to align its sectors with an industry classification standard which is followed by institutional clients, it said.

DFM will have seven sectors: Financials, industrials, real estate, utilities, communication services, materials and consumer staples.

The bourse has invited market participants for consultations on the index methodology ahead of possible changes, with the revised indexes to be launched in Q4, it said.


Egyptian pound weakens the most in four months

Egyptian pound weakens the most in four months
Updated 03 October 2022

Egyptian pound weakens the most in four months

Egyptian pound weakens the most in four months
  • Foreign currency has dried up in Egypt over the last six months, forcing banks and importers to scramble to find dollars to pay for imports and putting pressure on the central bank to let its value weaken

CAIRO: Egypt weakened its currency on Monday by the most in more than four months, with the Egyptian pound falling by more than 0.10 pounds to the dollar, according to Refinitiv data.

The pound was trading at 19.62 to the dollar at 1337 GMT, down from 19.49 at the open.

Foreign currency has dried up in Egypt over the last six months, forcing banks and importers to scramble to find dollars to pay for imports and putting pressure on the central bank to let its value weaken.

Dollars have disappeared in part because of the higher cost of imported commodities, a drop in Russian and Ukrainian tourists and a flight of dollars from Egyptian treasury markets.

The last time the central bank allowed the currency to weaken so quickly was from May 22 to May 25, when it fell by 0.34 pounds against the dollar in three days.

The pound weakened to a record low on Dec. 21, 2016, when it traded at 19.80 pounds per dollar during intraday trade, according to Refinitiv. But in subsequent years it rebounded.

Egypt since March has been negotiating a financial support package from the IMF, which has long been urging it to allow greater exchange rate variability.


Oil jumps $3 as OPEC+ weighs biggest output cut since 2020

Oil jumps $3 as OPEC+ weighs biggest output cut since 2020
Updated 03 October 2022

Oil jumps $3 as OPEC+ weighs biggest output cut since 2020

Oil jumps $3 as OPEC+ weighs biggest output cut since 2020

RIYADH: Oil prices jumped $3 a barrel on Monday as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, considered reducing output by more than 1 million barrels per day to buttress prices with what would be its biggest cut since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude futures for December delivery rose $2.99 to $88.13 a barrel, a 3.5 percent gain, by 12:50 p.m. ET (1650 GMT). US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $3.33, or 4.2 percent, to $82.82 a barrel.

Citing OPEC+ sources, Reuters reported that the organization is planning an output cut of more than 1 million bpd ahead of its meeting in Vienna on Oct.05 to decide on the next phase of the production policy. 

It should be also noted that the upcoming meeting on Wednesday will be the first in-person meeting of OPEC ministers since 2020, which clearly indicates its significance. 

If the meeting agrees to the output cut, it will be the organization’s second consecutive monthly cut after reducing output by 100,000 bpd last month.

“If OPEC+ does decide to cut output in the near term, the resultant increase in OPEC+ spare capacity will likely put more downward pressure on long-dated prices,” energy consultancy FGE said in a note, as reported by Reuters. 

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs, on Sept. 28 had cut its 2023 oil price forecast due to expectations of weaker demand and a stronger US dollar. 

Analysts at Goldman Sachs now see Brent crude averaging $100 a barrel from October to December and $108 a barrel in 2023, down from the previous prediction of $125 for both time periods. 

Post the Ukraine conflict, oil prices had rallied to over $120 a barrel, as the western allies led by the US and EU weaned themselves from Russian oil imports. 

Oil prices, however, have been tumbling since July, as the pandemic lockdown in China negatively impacted the demand, along with a surging US dollar weighed on global financial markets. 

Goldman Sachs said a production cut under consideration by OPEC+ was justified by the sharp decline in oil prices from recent highs and supported its bullish view.

“We reiterate both our bullish oil view as well as our preference for long crude timespread positions into year-end,” the bank’s commodities research division wrote in note on Monday.

Despite one of the tightest markets in recorded history, Goldman said the cut could be justified by the 40 percent decline in prices from their June peak and enabled by the lack of supply elasticity, given slowing shale activity and exhausted spare capacity.

“The collapse in investor participation, driving liquidity and prices lower, is also a likely strong catalyst for such a cut, as it would increase the carry in oil and start to claw back investors who have instead turned to USD cash allocation following the aggressive Fed hikes.”


Strong growth primarily driven by economic reforms, says Saudi finance minister


Strong growth primarily driven by economic reforms, says Saudi finance minister

Updated 03 October 2022

Strong growth primarily driven by economic reforms, says Saudi finance minister


Strong growth primarily driven by economic reforms, says Saudi finance minister

  • Al-Jadaan lays emphasis on establishing a Gulf common market for the benefit of citizens

RIYADH: Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council are keen to see the group achieve “the highest levels of economic integration,” said Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan.

He was speaking at the 117th Meeting of the GCC Financial and Economic Cooperation Committee in Riyadh on Monday. 

Al-Jadaan stressed the importance of establishing a Gulf common market for the benefit of the GCC citizens.

He said the economies of the GCC countries are not immune from the effects of the economic crises the world is going through but they tackle such issues by adopting a proactive approach. 

“Yes, we are benefiting from higher oil prices, but the strong growth we are seeing is primarily driven by the reforms we have implemented,” he said. 

The Saudi finance minister said the global economy is facing major headwinds, while the effects of the epidemic remain, supply chain issues persist, energy and food markets are in turmoil, with inflation rising to its highest levels in several years. 

He stressed the need for tightening monetary and financial conditions.

Saudi Arabia is expecting its budget surplus in 2022 to hit SR90 billion ($24 billion), and another SR9 billion next year, the Ministry of Finance announced last week.

Looking at the full year 2022 projections, the real gross domestic product is expected to grow by 8 percent, while the inflation in 2022 may record about 2.6 percent.


MENA Project Tracker — Egypt starts new gas project; Oman requests bids for port

MENA Project Tracker — Egypt starts new gas project; Oman requests bids for port
Updated 03 October 2022

MENA Project Tracker — Egypt starts new gas project; Oman requests bids for port

MENA Project Tracker — Egypt starts new gas project; Oman requests bids for port

RIYADH: The offshore arm of Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has received a commercial bid from a Saipem-led team on its $1 billion Umm Sheriff Gas Cap condensate development project, reported MEED.

ADNOC Offshore has single-sourced bids from the Italian-based consortium — which also includes China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Co.— to speed up the highly delayed engineering, procurement, and construction phase.

Egypt to begin work on a new gas project

Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El-Molla has announced the approval of a project to connect the Raven offshore gas field to the El-Amriya onshore processing plant, reported MEED.

The project will include many different phases, and act as a link between the Raven field and the butane extraction plant, which is operated by the Egyptian Natural Gas Co.

After its completion, the butane plant will receive 100 million cubic feet a day of gas from the Raven field — reaching its maximum capacity, according to Gasco Chairman Yasser Salah El-Din.

Oman requesting bids on development of new port

Oman has requested bids for the development and operations of its Dhalkut Port in the Southern Dhofar Governorate as part of plans to grow its maritime trade, according to Zawya.  

The project will be tendered under a “develop, manage and operate” contract, where both local and foreign firms will be given a chance to bid.

The deadline for the project bids is Oct. 16.

“Bids must be submitted by local and international companies which have experience in port operation and management,” the statement said.