With the stability, security, and business development in the Kurdistan region of Iraq opening the doors to domestic and international business prosperity, it is no surprise that private aviation traffic into Iraq is growing. Kelly Green meets one of the top men making it happen — Dori Abouzeid, who used to fly Frank Sinatra.
One company already laying down the red carpet for the arrival of business and high-net-worth individuals is Macair Flight Support, the exclusive handler of all VIP aircraft at Erbil International Airport.
A subsidiary of US-based Macair Inc, Macair Flight Support offers specialized aviation services to accommodate all unscheduled aircraft, heads of state, and VIP flights into Iraq.
The red carpet treatment includes passenger and baggage handling, hotels and transportation accommodations, catering, customs and immigration, aircraft security, fuel arrangement and coordination — all of which is presented by multi-lingual staff, handpicked for their hospitability and customer service.
“I believe that anyone can do something but the attitude you cannot replace,” explained Dori Abouzeid, CEO and president of Macair Inc. “So we try to obtain the staff that have that constant smile on their face and a good attitude.”
The company also offers a 24/7-concierge service. “I noticed that there is a huge lack of that in the Middle East, and some places in Europe and the US as well,” said Abouzeid. “We have a live person answering the calls 24/7 with meticulous attention to detail.”
Abouzeid sets a high standard. As a licensed aircraft mechanic and a pilot (who used to fly Frank Sinatra) with around 14,000 hours of worldwide aviation experience, Abouzeid has built on his own travel experiences to instill the idea of the red carpet treatment at Macair Flight Support.
“Being a pilot and running an organization I’ve gone through numerous FBOs worldwide, so I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” he explained. “We learn from the good and we try and leave the bad and the ugly aside.”
Abouzeid has been keen to do something in the region for a while and Erbil International Airport seemed the obvious choice of location.
“Erbil, specifically being a highlighted epicenter of Kurdistan, acts as a base for the rest of the area and soon to be key center for the global business community and individual travellers. That requires safe and efficient air transportation for business and leisure travellers that would rather focus on serenity and business than worry about transportation and service,” he said.
“Economically, the region is moving rapidly ahead of the rest of Iraq and it has been reported that the economy’s growth this year is expected to be more than 7%. Additionally, due to a number of Kurdish-international relations, foreign business is encouraged and the regional government is encouraging high quality products and welcoming services.”
While currently Macair Flight Support does not have any crew on the ground in other parts of Iraq, as a subsidiary of Macair, Inc. it has more than 100 years of experience in aviation and an expansive network, so it can not only arrange for travel and all arrangements into any part of Iraq, but also to anywhere in the world.
And customers from a variety of areas are taking advantage of this expertise, including local and foreign businesses, government officials, and high-net-worth individuals and VIPs from all over the world.
“A lot of dignitaries are moving in and a lot of oil company executives are starting to come into Iraq, so that’s livened up the influx of airplanes,” explained Abouzeid.
To support this influx, Macair Flight Support has plans for expansion. “As the market continues to grow in the region and particularly in Kurdistan, the demand is going to be high for aircraft handling, chartering and aircraft management, so we believe that private jets will do very well there.
“We are enhancing ground operations with the construction of a new FBO, which is scheduled to open at Erbil International Airport in late 2012,” added Abouzeid.
“The new facility will provide hangers and offices capable of providing elite and efficient services including: ground-handling and aircraft services, fuelling, flight planning, executive hangars, line maintenance, aircraft sales and management. The facility will also provide safe, swift, and exceptional passenger-handling for all arriving and departing private aircraft, VIP lounge, a conference lounge, crew rest area, prayer room, exercise room and operations briefing room, among other amenities.”
This interview has been published by Arabian Aerospace