A two-pronged approach: rising from the Middle East and Europe

posted on 12th June 2018

There is nothing like a two-pronged approach to taking the market by storm. That is exactly what Rizon Jet is doing from both its headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and at its brand new London Biggin Hill facility. Jo Murray speaks to Allan McGreal, Director of FBO UK, Rizon Jet

London has become a honey pot for Qatari investors and business aviation is no exception. Leading the way is Rizon Jet which is part of Ghanim Bin Saad Al Saad & Sons Holdings (GSSG Holdings), headquartered in Doha with influential Qatari businessman Ghanim Bin Saad Al Saad at the helm. The GSSG Holdings is a large private holding that has over 30 businesses around the world with a wide range of interests ranging from real estate, manufacturing, engineering, luxury marina developments, automobiles and aviation.

Two sizeable hangars and FBO/VIP Terminal development projects have been undertaken at both Doha International Airport and London Biggin Hill. Both shall be fully-fledged EASA 145 aircraft maintenance facilities, servicing Bombardier and Hawker as well as other business jets. Talks with several aircraft manufacturers with regards to Authorized Service Center status are ongoing.

The London Biggin Hill Airport facilities comprise a new 130,000m2 hangar and FBO/VIP Terminal facility. The two-level FBO/VIP Terminal is designed to international tastes while incorporating the best of Arabic and contemporary European style. The ground floor level of the FBO/VIP Terminal features numerous open seating areas and the mezzanine floor offers enclosed private lounge areas for customers as well as a crew lounge with work stations and a dedicated rest area. Separate prayer rooms for men and women are also being built.

Coincident with the expansion in the UK, Rizon Jet is advancing with a similar sized facility at its headquarters at Doha International Airport, Qatar. Accessible via its own apron and with an airport parking area of approx 5,810m², the facility will have a hangar large enough to accommodate four Global XRS or nine Challenger 604/605 aircraft. It hosts in-house workshops and technical offices covering 1,579m². The 737m² adjacent FBO/VIP Terminal at Doha features five private lounges, an open lounge area with a water feature, indoor garden, duty free area as well as a male and female prayer rooms.

Watching luxury emerge from rough terrain in the Middle East has become a significant spectacle of the last 30 years; seeing the same occurrence in and around London is far less commonplace. One could be forgiven for thinking that London had become saturated with aviation assets over the course of the last three decades, but Rizon Jet has proved there are still gems to be polished and new concepts to be brought to the London market.

McGreal says that the whole Rizon Jet philosophy is based on providing to our customers the best of the Middle Eastern hospitality, a level of service not seen in Europe before – but there is more to it than that. Rizon Jet UK Ltd is not just a portal to the UK; it offers a plethora of opportunity to dwell, be productive and enjoy the facilities and services Rizon Jet is providing. Of course Biggin Hill is also a doorway to London, the world’s financial capital.

Essentially, says McGreal, Rizon Jet is dedicated not only to perfecting departure and arrival by private jet; but it is also working with the intangible bit in the middle of business aviation – the bit where passengers are often ignored and left to their own devices rather than engaged, served and become part of the commercial raison d’être of the organisation.

This concept of increasing and improving the dwell time has a number of consequences. The first is that McGreal is charged not only with ensuring traffic into Rizon Jet’s facilities is commensurate with the investment made by GSSG Holdings; it is also imperative that the community around Biggin Hill is invited in to provide services to a wider market than they would normally enjoy and to benefit from an international “passing trade”.

“The idea is that we offer a true 5 star service,” says McGreal, “whether people come to it by air or land.”

Secondly, points out McGreal, when passengers flying into Rizon Jet’s Biggin Hill facility choose to stay and transact business in situ, the aircraft they own or charter become highly visible to business partners and associates. Essentially, the aircraft becomes part of that passenger’s business “profile”, demonstrating the lengths that he or she has gone to in order to close that deal, explore new opportunities or simply network. Where else in the world can a man or woman come to the table to complete a transaction with their private jet in full view, almost a party to the deal itself?

“We have to make sure that every aspect of this business speaks to the needs of the market,” says McGreal. To this end, apart from the copious facilities already evident at Biggin Hill, the airport has cleared a site for the construction of a hotel adjacent to the FBO, thereby adding a much needed service not only for Rizon Jet’s customers but also for the local area.

McGreal is also emphatic that Rizon Jet cannot afford to act in isolation. “We have to think beyond this UK facility which is why Doha is so important,” he says, adding that it is already the beginnings of a network. Rizon Jet’s management does not exclude the possibility of there being further Rizon Jet facilities internationally over time.

He is also very clear about expected outcomes. Rizon Jet is not just a fabulous FBO/VIP Terminal; it is also a top-end aircraft maintenance outfit with EASA 145 and Qatar maintenance centre accreditations at both locations. “We have to have an integrated model or else we will have to rely on others,” says McGreal. “And we have to match these capabilities to our customers’ profiles.”

Whilst Rizon Jet is emerging as one of the newly formed giants of private aviation, McGreal is quick to support the small business aviation organisations that nurture the market at the smaller end. There is progress in any market and business aviation– hopefully upwards now that the market is improving – exhibits plenty of fluidity.

The actual location of the UK facilities – at London Biggin Hill – is rarely recognised sufficiently for the opportunities it offers the business aviation community. The runway can accommodate an ACJ or BBJ with no difficulties. Landing aids are satisfactory and continual investment is expected in airfield lighting. With a new airport Managing Director on board, there are high expectations of Biggin Hill’s ability to absorb significant business aviation traffic coming into London – especially with the 2012 Olympics in mind – but there is also a strong community outreach programme in place to protect the interests of the local populace.

With regard to aircraft management and charter, in the UK Rizon Jet is collaborating with AOC holder Oryx Jet. In Qatar, an AOC was granted in May 2009. In fact, Rizon was the first private jet company in Doha to achieve such status.

A management team has been assembled carefully and effectively so that Rizon Jet is truly ready to roll. Apart from McGreal, Chief Executive Patrick Enz has established a strong international team of business aviation professionals to help run the business. These include: Jackie Nikolajsen, General Manager at the Biggin Hill facility, former Technical Director of ExecuJet Europe A/S (Denmark) in Copenhagen; and Faisal Alam, General Manager at the Doha facility, former Chief Operating Officer at Bahrain-based Delmun Aviation Services.

Right now, McGreal is excited by the “empty page opportunity” that has been presented to him. He says that, in many ways, clients will come to the brand new facility and influence the ways in which it will grow and prosper. McGreal’s “empty page” is sure to fill up very soon.