"Bombardier is a leading company in terms of business aircraft."
What have the milestones been for Bombardier in the UAE over the past year?
One of Bombardier’s main objectives in the region is targeting aircraft sales, but we have other goals to increase our customer services and presence. Bombardier has significantly increased its presence in the region over the years. Most of the sales force is now based in the UAE. We have also expanded in the sense that Qatar Executive is our maintenance provider throughout the region. We have expanded that into Saudi Arabia as well with ARABASCO, which is our service provider there and in Turkey with MNG, which is our service provider to maintain our aircraft in the region. In that respect, it has been a very successful year in terms of what we wanted to do—to expand our office here and our wings on the maintenance side. On the sales side, it has been a very healthy year for us in the Middle East region and in Africa.
What is the strategic importance of the UAE and Dubai for Bombardier’s operations?
We already have a partnership in the UAE with ExecuJet, which is our service provider. However, let’s not forget that we based ourselves in Dubai, too. The office we are in presently has expanded from eight people to 24 now, and we are still expanding. We chose the UAE obviously for the basic elements it provides us with, such as businesses in the city and airlines including Emirates, which provide us with connections between the Middle East, Africa, and our home in Montreal, Canada. It is easy to fly from here, and it is an easy center to use. That is really why we decided on Dubai, and we have been here since 1998.
“Bombardier is a leading company in terms of business aircraft.”
What is the main profile of the clients you like to approach in the region?
We look at our past history, the economy, and the political conditions in the Middle East. By having these three elements, we can work on a forecast. The other thing that you have to realize is that business in the Middle East has changed. It used to be that business people focused on their own country, but now they are looking at pan-Arabia. They are expanding into the region, so they need to travel. The other thing is that there is only a limited commercial airline network that can service our customers’ needs in smaller cities. Currently, you can’t go direct from Dubai to Alexandria, for example. All of this has created another business for us, and that is why you see our trend of expansion in the Middle East. It’s a similar thing if you work in Africa—obviously, the airport infrastructure and travel in Africa are very limited, and business people in mining and oil exploration need to travel into areas that even commercial airlines cannot go. This is another thing that helps us to sell in our business.
How important are public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the development of the aviation sector?
We actually tend not to have partnerships, as much as we have clients that we build partnerships with, such as Qatar Executive and ExecuJet, whereby they provide a service for us. Bombardier has just become closer to Royal Jet in Abu Dhabi, as it bought four airplanes from us. That is another expansion we have had in the region. The partnership works on the product plus the maintenance side. We don’t intend to invest in manufacturing facilities or maintenance facilities ourselves; we always find private investors that can help us on that because our focus is on manufacturing aircraft.
How would you evaluate Bombardier’s financial performance in the Middle East in 2013?
Bombardier is a leading company in terms of business aircraft. We expect to increase that for the next few years, especially with what’s happening in the Middle East today, even with the political unrest, the need for travel and for private jets is increasing. Plus, the airports being built in the Middle East will increase our business. I see business in 2015 being very good. We have done very well in 2014 and we will continue that into 2015.
What are the main strategies of Bombardier for approaching new clients?
We depend not only on our relationships, because this is a word-of-mouth business, hence we have expanded on that. Bombardier has gone and explained its presence to the market, and not just at events that relate to business aircraft. We have also gone to boat shows, horse riding, and polo events, amongst others. We are trying to use events where we can target our customers. We have found our customers, so we are spending more money on the marketing side, not only in one country, but in many countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Nigeria. We are also following the economic booms and trying to have a presence in those places. We are working to increase our presence at most of the air shows the Middle East hosts. By using these events, not just business aircraft events, we are trying to target more customers.
What are the main challenges that the aviation sector will face in Dubai in the medium term?
In the UAE, the new Al Maktoum International Airport is great and we have invested a lot of money there. However, Dubai International Airport is very crowded and busy, and there is probably no more room for business aircraft there. We feel that this is something that is going to work against users of business aircraft. They might have to go and use Jebel Ali, which is quite a long way from the city. Business people want to fly in and leave the same day, so they need to come to a closer airport. That’s probably going to be an issue for us. Otherwise, we don’t have problems in Dubai. We would like to see more fixed-base operators (FBOs) at the new airport. I think ExecuJet has one and DC Aviation has one as well, but it would be nice to see another one there because the traffic would be able to take that. We can see some expansion in Sharjah and Fujairah, but that is still too far away from the main business city, which is Dubai.
What is the significance of R&D and innovation for Bombardier in the region?
The region is extremely limited in R&D because it is more about sales here. The only facilities that Bombardier has are in Morocco, which is more of a manufacturing plant for small parts. Our main R&D work is done in Montreal and Toronto, in Canada, and in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We have always insisted that our products are at the cutting edge of technology. We have now developed a new Challenger 650 airplane, and we have invested heavily in the Learjet 85, and the model. Now we have the Global 7000 and the Global 8000, which will be delivered in 2016 and 2017. We are still upgrading our airplanes. We have committed to the market that every year we will come up with something new, and we always try to be leaders in technology.
What is Bombardier’s role going to be in the development of the aviation sector in the region?
Bombardier is a leader in the aviation sector, both in commercial and in business aircraft. We have always intended to maintain our investments not only in R&D, but also in the region generally, as we have to create some returns from the business we generate in the region. In the UAE, we have limited it to the spare parts circle. In terms of R&D, if there is an opportunity, I am sure Bombardier will consider it in the future.
© The Business Year – November 2014