News — 17.02.22

As Vertis Aviation celebrates its tenth year of business, Altitudes spoke to James Foster, Chief Operating Officer, and Daniella Dawson, Head of Sales about the Middle East region’s importance to the company, the changes they have experienced, and their expectations for the future.

Switzerland-based Vertis Aviation has just celebrated a decade of business and for much of that time has had a presence in the region, opening their first Middle East office in Dubai World Central in 2014.

Initially, the business focused on bespoke charter and the Vertis philosophy concentrated on creating unique bespoke experiences for each individual client. The team placed emphasis on developing customer relations, optimising its international network and managing the expectations of these highly demanding clients. The sector was still developing in the region and the Dubai team felt a need to demonstrate how Vertis genuinely delivered the experience the customer had requested, whatever that may be. This even included planning a couple of circumnavigations of the world – a request that had not been seen out of any of the other global offices.


James Foster, Chief Operating Officer, said: “Personal relationships are key in the region, which one of the reasons that we chose to set up an office in Dubai. Having a team at ground level in such an important region was key to the development of our business here. This early presence ensured we generated a reputation for providing reliable, professional and knowledgeable services, which are very much appreciated to this day by our clients. We put down strong roots early and forged important relationships with key players at a time when the market was opening, this positioned us well for further growth and success.

“We also became involved in advising clients about aircraft management, aircraft transactions and took on a consultancy type role because at that time the demand was there. Dubai is now a major hub for our operations as it sits at the centre of our customer base.”

The business aviation industry has certainly changed over the last 10 years, and Daniella Dawson, Head of Sales for Vertis in Dubai, has seen the difference a decade has made to operators, facilities and clients in the region.


Anytime anywhere: Vertis takes great pride in helping its clients travel in their own unique way.

Dawson said: “The industry has matured over the last decade in the Middle East. It is still very much the domain of the larger aircraft and executive airliners, but with the political changes, the growth of business and the aerial corridor connecting China with African destinations it has become much more than just the domain of the royal families. It is now very much a part of the wider global business sector and as Africa has become a more mature business aviation continent this had continued to drive business in the Middle East.

“The availability of aircraft has improved too. Once upon a time it was very hard to source the right aircraft locally and there was a lot of repositioning required, but as regional operators have grown this challenge has become less common. There are also more professionals now operating in the region, so the standards of FBOs, operators, brokers and airports have all improved to deliver a greatly enhanced passenger and crew experience. Training is now taken more seriously and there has been a concerted effort to raise the levels of standards delivered by all involved in the industry. MEBAA has played a part in this too.”


“Our customers have also changed. Once we were dealing predominantly with heads of state and royalty, but now there are more international companies actively investing, and travelling to and within the Middle East.

“The pandemic has also influenced change more recently. We’ve noted that first-class customers who hop from hub to regional airports now find themselves flying privately from A to B and this has driven new business to us. While there has been a general increase in aircraft availability, at the moment it is challenging to find the right aircraft to suit the client’s mission profile. This is an industry-wide situation. Clients are finding they typically need to be more organised and plan their flights with a longer notice period than before, to avoid disappointment in both aircraft availability and price surcharges. Competitive one-way pricing on the market is becoming less common. This is primarily due to the demand being at an all-time high.”

While there have been changes over the 10 years, for Dawson the Vertis philosophy has remained the same, and the need for attention to detail for all clients is still paramount.

The pandemic has also influenced change more recently. We’ve noted that first-class customers who hop from hub to regional airports now find themselves flying privately from A to B and this has driven new business to us.


She said: “Relationship building takes up a lot of my time. We offer a highly personalised service to our customers which means we need to know our suppliers very well, maintain detailed information about all our destinations and ensure our partners are maintaining the same standards as our elite set of customers has come to expect. Our customers are international jet setters, captains of industry and heads of government, we can’t afford to not be on top of all the details of each and every supplier. We aim to have a global perspective but deliver detailed local service so my time is spent ensuring this happens.

“Developing a business strategy is also key to our continued growth as a business. The sector has changed a lot in the last decade and as a small, independent company we have been able to adjust and transform our own business processes, offering and systems to meet the changing demands of clients. The needs of customers, changing socio-economic and political landscapes, and aircraft types all influence how we approach our business. It is a very exciting time to be in the industry because of this.”


With 10 successful years behind them, how does Vertis see the industry developing over the next 10 years, globally and in the region?

Foster said: “The industry has many challenges, all of which also provide opportunities. The most pressing challenge is sustainability and how to create a sector that is equally able to provide point-to-point journeys, but with minimal CO2 emissions. It is not down to just one part of the industry but is a responsibility that resides with everybody involved, and it’s great to see that the OEMS, fuel suppliers, technology providers, and increasingly the passengers strive to define a more environmentally future.”

Foster also believes that technology can be leveraged to improve the customer experience, but it needs to be employed in a way that maintains the personal touch with clients.

He said: “Technology continues to play an absolutely central role improving speed and access to services, streamlining communications and delivering a fast-moving product. Many customers still expect and require personal attention to service that requires a very close relationship, where we deploy technology alongside our experienced team. This could be through improved workflow systems, enhanced customer interaction that identifies information with minimal interruption to a customer journey and to also increased efficiency of aircraft chartering.

“If we optimise the technology to its maximum we can create all sorts of efficiencies, improve sustainability, and further streamline the travel experience. Vertis is already very much a technologically forward-thinking company and we are defining ways in which we can use these types of applications to make the journey better.

“Data is also going to drive the future of business aviation. Not just the data that is conveyed by the increasingly sophisticated connectivity platforms, but the data about customer behaviour, aircraft performance and situational awareness at ground level and in the air. We are currently generating enormous amounts of data. Using AI and other technology to analyse the data can make for improved security, better service, homogenised experiences, and much more. The challenge is to manage and handle the data so that it remains safe, secure and valuable. I’m interested to see how we as an industry use it, for Vertis’s part we are creating new customer relationship management technology to ensure we optimise the data we are able to collect.

“I believe cryptocurrencies will also become more commonly used for transactions. We are already exploring facilities to best support customers wishing to pay in this way, and how that can connect new regions,” he added.