10 Important Things to Remember When Flying to the Middle East
Because of recent events in the Middle East and their coverage by the news media, some business aircraft operators are re-evaluating corporate travel to this area. While there are definitely some issues to be aware of, requiring additional pre-trip and security planning, business aviation traffic to the region has remained relatively stable. The Middle East is not a particularly difficult operating environment and offers more operating flexibility compared with many other parts of the world. Best practice is to understand operating restrictions at intended destinations.
1. All ground handlers require the same information in order to make arrangements, with the exception of Turkey
A ground handler requires your full schedule, aircraft type and tail number, fuel requirements, passenger passport and visa information when applicable, and details of required services, such as catering and local transportation. While standard aviation insurance may cover you in most of the region, Turkey mandates specific insurance, including war risk coverage. Turkey will not grant a landing permit without viewing the particular insurance, airworthiness, and aircraft registration certificates in advance.
2. Utilizing prepaid ground transportation is recommended
It’s best to avoid public taxis. Prepaid transportation, with driver, is recommended. Your local ground handler can set this up. While vehicles may be allowed on the ramp at certain locations, they’ll not be allowed planeside. The exception is VIP passengers with arrangements approved in advance by local authorities.
3. Various in-flight catering options are available
Depending on the location, there may not be a lot of variety in terms of aviation caterers. While operators typically deal with airport caterers, many flight attendants may prefer to pick up catering from hotel restaurants. Your ground handler can arrange to have outside catering brought through airport security. Alcohol may be carried to the Middle East aboard your aircraft, but it must be ‘sealed’ when in Saudi Arabia and other areas in the region. Roger Leemann with Air Culinaire Worldwide(sm) wrote a good article on arranging in-flight catering in remote locations, which provides some additional pointers.
4. Israeli-made or -registered aircraft may have difficulty operating in the region
Aircraft with Israeli registrations are highly restricted in terms of operational flexibility within this region. Aircraft made or registered in Israel, such as the IAI Westwinds, may not be permitted to overfly Middle East countries. Such aircraft can operate to Jordan or Cyprus (close stop outside the Middle East), but are barred from overflight or landing in most of the Middle East. Turkey may allow overflight of Israeli-registered aircraft, but this must be confirmed in advance. Similarly, it may take longer to process permit clearances for aircraft made in Israel.
5. Turnaround times on permits varies, with landing permits usually taking longer than overflight permits
Landing permit lead time depends on the appropriate Civil Aviation Administration (CAA). Overflight permits are usually easier to obtain, but this also depends on the appropriate lead time by the particular CAA. While most countries in this region don’t require knowing the individuals onboard the flight for overflight permits, some – including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – may require all crew and passenger information (full names, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and expiration date). If there is an issue with the names on your list, CAA may not issue permits, or permits may take longer to process. Be aware that some permits take longer to process than others. For example, when overflying Pakistan with Indian nationals onboard, it may take four to five days as opposed to three days to obtain permits. In addition, always review your Operations Specifications and insurance coverage to confirm they impose no overflight or landing restrictions in this region.
6. There are differences among countries in what information must be provided to obtain a permit
In many countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, you must provide business contacts if planning to remain overnight (RON). Some countries specify route of flight as well as entry and exit points at flight information region (FIR). In all cases, you must provide crew and passenger information and a complete schedule.
7. Overfight and landing permits are fairly easy to revise and have a 48-hour validity period
However, Middle East permits are relatively flexible and not difficult to revise. Most permits are valid for the entire Zulu day, and some have validity for 48 hours. So long as you meet permit lead time deadlines, it’s generally straightforward to amend a schedule or passenger list.
8. U.S. operators should seek help if planning to overfly a sanctioned country’s airspace
For U.S. operators operating to countries under U.S. government sanction, including Iran and Syria, we recommend they contact an experienced 3rd-party provider to avoid surprises. Overflight of Iran is not currently restricted and permits can be processed. Additionally, the country where the aircraft is registered or your 3rd-party provider is based might limit operations. For more information on this topic, reference these articles by Bobby Butler:
- Business Aviation Operations to Iraq – U.S. Sanctioned Country Series
- Business Aviation Operations to Iran – U.S. Sanctioned Countries Series
- Business Aviation Operations to and from Syria – U.S. Sanctioned Countries Series
9. Western-style hotels are mostly localized to major international cities
Hotels are generally of a very high quality in major centers. Dubai, UAE (OMDB), for example, has 6- and 7-star hotels, and you’ll find many U.S. hotel chains throughout the region. You cannot always expect to find top Western-style hotels at more remote locations, but look for the best possible options. Security standards are generally up to par in the Middle East, but it’s recommended to get a security report for every hotel you will be staying at.
10. Complete ground support is available
While the speed of service delivery on the ground may be slow, especially during holiday periods such as Ramadan, full services and arrangements through credit are available throughout the region. Fuel delays are uncommon, with the exception of OMDB, where fuel trucks may be delayed during periods of busy airline activity. Although major aviation fuel cards are accepted, it’s best to carry a copy of your fuel release onboard the aircraft.
The Middle East is an area of the world rich in both ancient and modern cultures. While the Middle East is generally a straight-forward operating environment for business jet operators, there are considerations to make depending on the country you are operating to. Due to these considerations, we recommend advanced trip planning because of the different requirements.
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