Jetex’s dynamic driving force
Could you tell us a little about you, the founder and the face of the company?
My father was originally from Turkey, and my mother from Syria. I grew up in Syria, and I had the chance to work in Damascus Airport as a driver and airport supervisor, which I did for three years. I moved to Dubai in 2005 to start my business here.
What made you think you would succeed?
I felt there was a gap in the market, as there was no single company offering both FBOs and flight support. We set up in Africa and opened several offices in the first four years. We also became established as an FBO fuel broker. We opened the first Jetex FBO in Paris in 2009.
Was it an opportunity you sought out, or was it a situation that arose and you took advantage of it?
We had been looking for a slot in Paris. Why Paris? Because Paris Le Bourget is the most important business airport in Europe. We wanted to prove ourselves, and show that we were a real player in the industry, so we decided that Paris was the best place to do that.
At the beginning, no one took us seriously. But we were very serious and within two years we had achieved a market share of 18-20 per cent of the total business aviation operations.
Then we started to replicate our experience in Paris in other locations. We opened new locations and we kept on improving. We are still expanding and improving. It is our target to have 50 FBOs by 2020. It is not an easy target, but we like a challenge and we believe we can do it.
Your expansion has been both rapid and diverse – Mexico, Chile, Italy, Ukraine, Morocco, Japan. Is it a planned growth or do you consider opportunities as they arise?
Both. It is not matter of either organic growth, or opportunity. It purely depends on the slots available. In Dubai, we signed in 2007 to have a slot as an FBO. We did not know exactly how it would be, but the government had the plan to develop business aviation here.
The project took a little time, and the Dubai Government delivered us the facility in 2017. It took us 10 years to achieve and to deliver, because it is an airport that was built from scratch.
We can see that the rest of the airports in the region are also developing. In Oman there was no service, no FBO available. They waited for the new airport to be finished and then they allocated space for the private jets.
Bahrain is building a new airport and we are targeting to be there as well. We are not tendering yet, but I am pretty sure that with the expansion of Bahrain Airport, they will be expanding the FBO facilities. So it often depends on the expansion or development of the airports.
In Jeddah and Amman airports there are also expansions and we will target those. Abidjan is also a new airport, being built from scratch. Hopefully our FBO will be fully operational there by end of August, or first week of September latest.
Is it preferable to start with a blank sheet and built the Jetex FBO?
Again, this depends on the airport. In Morocco we have Marrakesh, Casablanca and Rabat, which is the regional hub. In Marrakesh we are building something from scratch. In Casablanca we had a lounge that we took over from the government and fully renovated. What we do depends on the facility and its potential. In Marrakesh, there are around 4,000 movements per year. While in Casablanca there are only 2,000 movements. So Marrakesh deserved the investment.
Each destination depends on the movements, target and the contract. Each is considered on its merits, because in the end we are a commercial company and we have to calculate how much return we can get for our investment.
Are you still hoping to break into Latin America?
We are targeting the Brazilian and Mexican markets at the moment. For the past year we built awareness of the brand in Chile, Mexico and Brazil. Now we will start investing more in this part of the world.
This is supported by the big operations centre we have in Miami, which handles all the flight support out of North and South America.
“My first job was as a bus driver, aged 19. I am still a driver, but now I am driving the company.”
Adel Mardini, President and CEO
The States is a huge market for business aviation but it is also well served. How are you breaking into that market?
We brought our international experience to the US market. We are not targeting the US customer who is travelling inside the US, as they do not need our services. But when they are flying outside, they look to us as the people who have international experience – plus very local experience at each destination. We recruit local staff, with international experience, for an international brand. We follow the culture of every country in which we work. It is very important to us and why we are successful.
This is what we offer our US customers and we are doing very, very well.
With 60 per cent of the world’s private jets in the US, it makes sense to invest there. But to be successful in the US market you need to be patient. The competition in the US market is not about price, it is about the level of service. Price is number three or four of their selection criteria.
First of all they are looking for the level of service, the level of service, and the level of service. Then they will talk about the price.
How is the progress with the new aircraft hangar?
We target to be operational by Dubai Airshow in 2019, especially after our announcement that we will be the HondaJet representative for the Middle East. It is a completely different area for Jetex, and one that requires serious investment because of how HondaJet works. You have to buy the jets and then sell them on.
We started as flight support, then FBOs, now aircraft dealership. We are trying to develop in all areas. It is a big commitment and a big investment, but this is who we are. We are always doing something that is a challenge. We believe it is the only way to prove ourselves.
How will you convince the Middle Eastern market, with its love for heavy jets, that very light jets are the way to go?
We made the announcement at EBACE, about five weeks ago. We have already received six enquiries from the GCC. Even HondaJet were surprised at this number of enquiries.
Other light aircraft have not done well in the region, but the people who were promoting them were not based here. They did not have a maintenance centre. Our target is that we will build a sales support centre for HondaJet in the region. Otherwise it is too expensive to maintain.
The HondaJet dealership is just the first step for us in aircraft dealership. We have started receiving enquiries, from other aircraft manufacturers if we would be interested in other dealerships. We have started building the platform.
You have also invested with Wright Electric to develop electric aircraft?
This is the future. And we are very excited to invest in the future. A few years ago, if you asked anyone about electric cars they would have laughed. Now you see Tesla. I think the future is to fly in an electric aircraft. It will not be easy to convince the people. If the car stops, you are stopped by the side of the road. If an aircraft stops, you are in trouble.
Our target is to start with short journeys between our FBOs – from Dubai to Muscat, maybe Jeddah and Riyadh, to promote this product. We are investing in the facilities for the aircraft, charging and maintenance. We believe in this future innovation. We expect the first demonstration models to be ready by 2020.
You describe yourselves as self-financing. Are you looking for investors?
We are so proud that until now, we are self-financed. We don’t have any financial support from anyone. But we are evaluating our position on a regular basis. We have a lot of opportunity to grow. We have a lot of investors who are interested to join us, but we have not selected anyone because we are looking for any investment in the company to be strategic. We are not looking for a private fund or a bank to give us a loan. We look more for alliances with big names.
The money is not everything. We would want someone who could understand us, and the strategy we are following, and the change we want to make to the aviation industry. We are not in a rush, but we are looking for a good opportunity that could push us further forward in the market.
So where is the next expansion?
Europe is still our focus. The UK is where we want to be, and we have been looking at Luton, but there is nothing available there, until now. There are alternatives, but whereas Luton has 30,000 movements, Stansted has only 3,000. London is London, before or after Brexit. Nothing will change. So London is our target. Being in London and Paris makes sense for us.
The Asian market is also important for us. We don’t have any support in Asia currently. So we are talking to a couple of locations and two of our team are already in Asia, visiting the destinations. Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, I can see growth in all these places. We will get one of them this year, as we don’t have a flagship FBO there.
For the next couple of years we will be even more active in our growth, with a number of big things coming up. My team and I are working hard to achieve this. What we have achieved so far is only 50 per cent of the target.
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