Despite awareness campaigns and efforts to clamp down on unlicensed aviation brokers, illegal or grey market flights continue to have a “huge negative impact” on the regional business aviation industry, according to Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, the founding and executive chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).
In an interview with Arabian Business, Alnaqbi said that illicit private aviation activities include the use of privately registered aircraft for commercial flights and aircraft landing under false pretences.
“People call them ‘grey’ market, but the right term is ‘illegal’ flights,” he said. “There are two types of flights, legal and illegal. There is nothing in the middle, in my opinion. Those illegal flights are having a huge negative impact on the market.”
Over the course of the last year, Alnaqbi said, MEBAA began conducting a “huge” awareness campaign across the region.
“We need to tell them [passengers] that they are actually opening themselves up to danger. It’s not safety related, but if you’re on an aircraft that is not supposed to do commercial flights, there can be problems if something happens.”
“In an accident, for example, if the airplane is licensed and insured for private use and it is proven that after an investigation if was flying for a commercial purpose, you’d definitely lose the insurance,” he added. “It’s like having a private car and you start taking passengers like a taxi. You are not allowed.”
Alnaqbi added that, despite MEBAA’s efforts and that of the authorities, there are still “a lot” of illegal brokers in the Middle East market.
“We are fighting them now. We are trying to put in regulations to register them and issue them licenses, but that will take time,” he said. “Europe and the United States have done this, but it took them decades. Here, we are working on it.”
“We’re making progress,” he added. “It’s slow, but something is better than nothing.”
According to MEBAA, the regional business aviation market is expected to record growth of approximately 9 percent in 2019, slightly slower than previous forecasts of double digit growth.