BEIRUT: Banking on Lebanon’s central geographical location, the country’s talented human resources and his own background as an air force major general, newly appointed CEO of ImperialJet Lebanon Michel Menassah is keen to see the company become a leader in business aviation.
“Beirut is at the middle way between Europe and the Middle East, we are in a perfect location to serve these vital markets efficiently,” Menassah told The Daily Star from ImperialJet’s Downtown Beirut office, which serves as a head office managing the company’s operations.
Given the Middle East’s growth in business jet ownership, expected to double in the next eight years, and proximity to traditional business jet markets in Europe and Russia, Lebanon is very well positioned to serve as a hub of the business aviation, according to Menassah.
ImperialJet’s business model is based on operating business jet charters and shared ownership programs providing customers with innovative and cost-efficient solutions that cater to the needs of all businessmen.
ImperialJet also helps business jet owners offset ownership costs by producing charter revenue, instead of keeping the aircraft they own sitting on the tarmac.
Businesspersons who do not own aircraft but still want to fly privately could also benefit from ImperialJet’s services.
“Say a businessman needs to close a deal in Tabouk, Saudi Arabia. If he chooses to fly on commercial airlines, it could take days to get there. First he needs to fly to Riyadh or Jeddah [in Saudi Arabia] and then, possibly a day or two later, take a domestic flight. It would simply take forever,” he said.
“Alternatively, hiring a business jet, which can be arranged in less than 24 hours, can get the businessman to his destination in a matter of hours while traveling in upmost privacy, luxury and work productivity,” he added.
Running some 550 flights in the first half of 2012, ImperialJet has seen some impressive growth. In June the company was able to achieve a 33 percent increase in flights year-on-year, after flying to 110 airports in 42 countries.
It is one of the few business jet companies that made a profit in 2011, Menassah said.
He added that Lebanon offers the company some of the most talented and creative staff in the region.
“This is the most important component of our business,” Menassah said, stressing that human resources play the most importantrole in a business where offering top-quality services to important clients, including government officials, makes all the difference.
Additionally, highly skilled employees help the company efficiently manage its operations and logistics, a key point to succeeding in the business.
“You will not make profit in this business if you have a badly managed big fleet. On the other hand, a small but very-well-managed fleet can make a very good business,” Menassah said.
Menassah started his career in 1975 as a military pilot, after which he gained a promotion to become a commander in the Lebanese Air Force. The post, he said, has provided him with a wealth of experience in the aviation industry, particularly in managing large operations.
Established in 1983, ImperialJet has premises in Munich, Germany, and Moscow, Russia, in addition to their office in Beirut.
It flies to destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.
The company operates six aircraft including Challenger models 850, 605, 604, one Gulfstream III, a LearJet 60XR and 60 models.
The company recently invested heavily in aircraft and staff, building new teams in Munich, the Middle East and Russia. Recent orders have a combined value in excess of $160 million including five LearJet 85s and three Challenger 605s.