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in Business Aviation / Features

The Royal Family

Posted 22 May 2019 · Add Comment

A Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) is parked discreetly at a quiet airport in Saudi Arabia. Its tail features a small UAE flag but, as Royal Jet CEO, Rob DiCastri, explains to Alan Peaford, that is a deliberate part of the company’s strategy.

Abu Dhabi-based Royal Jet is the world’s largest operator of the Boeing Business Jet with eight of the VVIP aircraft in service – and is planning to add more.
“We have just had a record year and we want to build on that momentum,” DiCastri said.
Royal Jet was spun out of the UAE’s Presidential Flight 15 years ago and has been growing a reputation for a capability that maintains that pedigree, matching expectations of the some of the world’s most discerning passengers.
“Leaders who don’t need to have a head-of-state aircraft sitting in a hangar for most of the year are typical of our customers,” DiCastri said. “When the head-of-state does need to travel with an official entourage, say from Africa to a UN function in Europe or the USA, then the BBJ is ideal.”
Royal Jet’s eight Boeings come in different configurations, from a traditional 19-seat layout right through to 52-seats. That allows for great flexibility as the company has several ‘combi’ aircraft that in three hours can transform from executive layout to economy or business class seating to meet the individual customer requirements.
Royal Jet also includes two Bombardier Global 5000 standard business jets in its fleet.
Four of the BBJs also have the capability of adopting a medevac layout.
“We saw a bit of a dip in medevac activities since Abu Dhabi’s hospitals are among some of the most advanced in the world. It can now be people flying IN to Abu Dhabi for treatment.
But there are people who would want to have the capability on board, and also have room for the family to travel too,” said DiCastri.
The plainness of the Royal Jet fleet is a selling point. The aircraft on the ramp near Riyadh featured a UAE flag on the tail and a graphic depicting the UAE and Saudi close relationship.
“We are discreet on the ramp and a lot of people like that. We can also quickly change the appearance so a national flag or a club or government logo can appear on the tail or the fuselage.”
Service is key to the Royal Jet offering. “We have two galleys on each BBJ, and we have additional crew, so even staff entourage get that special service. We say that the ‘Royal’ in our name reflects that Royal service,” DiCastri said.
The aircraft at the Saudi regional airport is a 34-seater. It was one of two delivered and presented at the MEBAA show in Dubai a little more than two years ago. “Since then, these aircraft have performed well with more than 1,000 hours per year.”
DiCastri said he wants Royal Jet to deepen the relationship with the Saudi market. “Right now there is a vacuum in capacity,” he said. ”There is also a real buzz in the country with the government driving growth.”
DiCastri will be looking to expand his fleet and aims at basing aircraft in Saudi and also in Africa. “It is an exciting time,” he said.
Royal Jet has been in talks with a Saudi Arabian air operator’s certificate (AOC) holder and could see a joint venture type agreement happening before the summer. “It is a win-win situation,” he said.
Africa is also high on the operator’s agenda with increasing enquiries coming from African governments.
“We can handle the large entourage, we are used to working with heads of state and government leaders. That experience makes a huge difference,” DiCastri said.
As well as the jets themselves, Royal Jet is also marketing its FBO services.
The Royal Jet terminal is favourably situated right next to the runway at Abu Dhabi International Airport which, DiCastri said, allows for swift taxiing time. “With no queue or slot restrictions, we are able to offer our clients a guaranteed 40-minute turnaround time for technical stops,” he said. “Our FBO also benefits from its own security, customs and immigration department, meaning that discretion and security are always assured.”
 

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