Illegal or grey market flights are a “cancer” on the business aviation industry that will never be fully eradicated, according to Ali Alnaqbi, the founder and executive chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).
Speaking to reporters at an event in Dubai, Alnaqbi said he doesn’t “believe there will be a day that the grey market will disappear.”
“Our target is to reduce the percentage of the grey market,” he said. “The reality is that we have a lot of illegal flights, whether in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, or even North Africa…..the grey market is the enemy of growth of any business,” Alnaqbi said.
Alnaqbi explained that grey market and illegal flights take several forms, including pilots taking passengers on illicit “test flights” between destinations and private owners chartering their aircraft to third parties at reduced prices.
In his remarks, Alnaqbi compared the practice to unlicensed taxis.
“A taxi is for people to go somewhere when they don’t have a car. Your car is for your own use. Can you drive your car on the street and take people? You could do that, but it’s illegal,” he said. “Exactly the same thing happens.”
Additionally, Alnaqbi said that no other markets have successfully completely eliminated illicit practices in the business aviation sector.
“Europe suffered from it. The US suffered from it. Until today, the US cannot capture all the illegal and grey market flights and are still fighting it,” he said.
To combat the practice, Alnaqbi called on business aviation companies and authorities to work closely together to enforce proper documentation of flights and on insurance companies to cancel coverage of flights found to be illegal.
“My message to aviation authorities and the operators, who really suffer, is to work together,” he said. “We won’t be able to reduce this unless we work together. There are a lot of sharks out there and they are smart.”