Tensions in the Middle East and North Africa may be hampering the growth of the business aviation sector but MEBAA is pushing forward, as Asma Abdullah discovers.
Ali Alnaqbi, founding chairman of the Middle East and North African Business Aviation Association (MEBAA), is upbeat about the progress being made by the region’s industry body.
“We will continue to reach all countries as much as we can. I would love to do MEBAA activities in 26 countries. We have a very aggressive plan but the regional situation is not helping us and we understand that,” Alnaqbi said.
MEBAA has grown healthy over a lifespan of 12 years, becoming the fourth largest association in the world, even though it is the youngest.
This year the region will witness six or seven conferences, including MEBAA’s flagship event in Dubai.
In March, a conference was scheduled for Jeddah, with the focus on the grey market, which has continuously disrupted the growth of private and business aviation.
The next conference for this year will be in Egypt or Tunisia. However, no official venue and date announcement had been made as Arabian Aerospace was going to press.
“Due to the challenges faced in some countries, reshuffling of the programme can always be expected,” Alnaqbi said.
The MEBAA show in Dubai takes place in December and will include a conference, which is set to tackle the issues affecting business and private aviation growth.
MEBAA has developed a reputation for listening as members discuss the challenges they face. Later, professionals brainstorm and produce dynamic solutions and a conference agenda is born. Different countries’ authorities are also selected to attend and meet with members, trying to come up with solutions to any common problems.
“MEBAA is a non-profit association established for the sole purpose of providing a platform for the members associated with the aviation industry,” said Alnaqbi. “I do not like to be seen competing with airlines; we complement each other. We fly to airports that airlines cannot reach.”
So, are the outcomes of the various conferences implemented in the market?
“In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the issue of a private operator’s license was cancelled to help reduce the grey market problem. This took place as a result of a MEBAA recommendation,” said Alnaqbi.
“Another example is the introduction of FBOs to Morocco. Previously, the country depended entirely on supervision but, because of demand from MEBAA members, it now has two FBOs at many major airports.
“Also, based on the request from MEBAA to the Government of Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen Airport was built to accommodate private and business aviation. This was the first private airport in the Middle East region. The support from the government and its continuing encouragement inspires MEBAA to move forward and to become a leading association in the business aviation market.”
Alnaqbi also explained how countries were chosen to host MEBAA conferences.
“The event is normally chosen to be in countries where there is a potential for growth and a place for innovation,” he said. “It is very important to make sure that the area is safe and secure for people to travel to that city and an infrastructure is ready to guarantee a successful experience.
“a conference is not only for the people in the country, but for the entire globe; hence comprehensive safety procedures are followed before it can be agreed.”
The MEBAA show itself, which takes place at Dubai World Central in December, focuses on bringing the supplier to the customer to make it easier for the market to get exposed to new features and to make deals.
Alnaqbi said he believes in the effectiveness of communicating concerns from the region’s business aviation operators and suppliers to help establish excellence in the sector.
He is currently vice chairman of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and is set to become chairman in 2020.