Jet charter deal aims for global oligarchs

The traffic of business jets into London’s main airports has increased by 6 per cent in the past year

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The Independent Online

Two of Britain’s leading private jet charter companies have merged to create the country’s biggest player in the fast-growing market to cater for wealthy tycoons from Russia, the Middle East and Asia flitting to and from their London mansions.

The number of rich foreigners from less stable parts of the world buying homes, businesses and land in the safe-haven UK has fuelled a boom in private jet transport. In the past year alone, the traffic of business jets into London’s main airports has increased by 6 per cent, while the likes of Farnborough and other private airports are seeing rapid expansion.

Now, Gama Aviation has moved to buy the stock market quoted Hangar8 for £82.3m in what is technically a reverse takeover to create a business worth £120m. The combined company will become one of the five biggest private jet companies in the world, with 144 planes under its management. 

Like the other big players in the sector, the pair do not only charter planes. Many customers own their own aircraft but use companies like Gama and Hangar8 to supply cabin crew, flight planning and maintenance. Also, those still thinking about their pennies use them to  charter out their jets to other customers when not using them themselves.

Hangar8 chief executive Dustin Dryden said: “It is no longer sufficient to manage a relatively small number of aircraft across a few countries. Today our clients, many with ultra-long range aircraft, require their premier suppliers to be truly global.”

Gama’s boss, Marwan Khalek, will become chief executive of the combined company. He said the two companies together made for a strong geographic spread around the world.

Mr Khalek founded Gama in 1983 at Fairoaks Airport in Surrey, flying clients around in a single Beech Baron aircraft. He still has an Airline Transport Pilot’s licence and occasionally flies Gama’s Beech 200. However, the company now has 600 staff working at 27 sites across the world. Its UK base is at Farnborough Airport.