Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix – Tips for Business Aircraft Operators
The Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix will be held April 19-21 at the Bahrain F1 circuit. Because of increased business aviation and general traffic for this event, it’s best to begin organizing your trip as soon as possible. Here is some information to help you with your planning:
1. There are 3 primary airports to consider for the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix
The closest airport to the Grand Prix is Bahrain Intl, Bahrain (OBBI) – an approximately 35-minute drive to the circuit. If aircraft parking availability at OBBI becomes an issue, it’s recommended to drop passengers off at OBBI and reposition to either Doha Intl, Qatar (OTBD) or King Fahd Intl, Dammam, Saudi Arabia (OEDF). All three are Airports of Entry (AOEs).
2. OBBI is the first choice for the venue
OBBI operates 24 hours with 24/7 customs and immigration. Best practice is to request aircraft parking early, as traffic volumes will be elevated during this period. Particularly for longer-term aircraft parking, it’s important to confirm with your ground handler that a suitable towbar will be available upon arrival. Otherwise, you’ll need to make arrangements to carry a towbar on board in order to ensure acceptance at this airport. With prior arrangement, ground handling and 4th-party services can be set up via credit arrangements.
Airport security is in place 24 hours, and airport security services are controlled by the airport authority. No other companies or organizations, other than the airport authority, are permitted to provide airside or aircraft security. Vehicle access airside is possible at OBBI; however, all vehicle access to aircraft parking areas must go through a security checkpoint. All 4th-party vendors, including in-flight catering and aviation fuel providers, require special security procedures to gain ramp access.
Crew and passengers must go through strict security screenings procedures, with all baggage subject to screening. A small exit tax is levied on travelers upon departure; however, this doesn’t apply to diplomatic passport holders. In terms of customs/immigration clearances, please note that there are items not permitted to be brought into the country. For more information on restricted items, visit the Bahrain Airport Web site.
3. OTBD is also a good option
OMAL is an AOE with 24-hour customs/immigration available. Due to limited aircraft parking at this airport, a slotted time for a parking stand must be confirmed prior to arrival. All aircraft must adhere to the times provided. Should there be a change in schedule, as much notice as possible is needed in order to reserve a new parking stand time. This is done through a Prior Permission Required (PPR) process. Ground handling services may be arranged in advance on credit, and major aviation fuel cards are accepted for jet fuel payment. It’s important to note that ground handlers are not able to make local transportation arrangements. This must be done through other avenues.
Passengers are expected to handle their own luggage for arrival and departure but may utilize porterage services at the airport, with payment made directly to porters. When passengers clear immigration, they’ll collect luggage from the baggage area, prior to clearing customs, and may have a porter service carry the bags. On departure, special “Al Maha” customs clearance is available, but this must be arranged in advance. This process fast-tracks the clearance process and separates business aviation passengers from the commercial airline customs and immigration lines. There are additional charges for this service. Be mindful of banned and restricted items when traveling to OTBD. It’s best to speak to your 3rd-party provider, or ground handler, regarding applicable restrictions.
4. OEDF is an option for repositioning
OEDF is a 24-hour AOE with no requirement for either airport slots or PPRs. Ground handling and 4th-party services can be arranged in advance via credit.
OEDF maintains 24-hour security and does not permit outside companies or organizations to provide airside or aircraft security. Airport authorities enforce strict regulations concerning the importation of certain items into the country. So, it’s best to check with your 3rd-party provider or ground handler about items you may bring into the country.
5. Landing permits are needed for all flights to Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia
Bahrain: Landing permits are required for Bahrain – with lead time of four working days –for both private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial). Landing permit procedures require that the Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) entered on the landing permit request match the MTOW denoted on the airworthiness certificate. A local business contact must always be submitted with all landing permit requests.
Qatar: Qatar requires that all aircraft, both private non-revenue and charter, obtain landing permits. Permit lead time is four working days, and you’ll need to provide a local business contact, along with a copy of the invitation letter, with your permit request. Note that this invitation letter must contain the operator name and address, registration of aircraft and purpose of flight, to name a few. It’s best to work with your 3rd-party provider to confirm specific information required for this letter.
Saudi Arabia: Landing permits are also needed for Saudi Arabia – for all aircraft regardless of type of flight. Lead time is three working days, and a business contact must be submitted along with permit requests.
Flights to and from Israel are strictly prohibited for all of the above countries.
6. Additional information for Bahrain
Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) of 1,000 ft., between flight level (FL) 290 and FL 410 inclusive, is in effect within the entire Bahraini Flight Information Region (FIR). RVSM-compliant aircraft may operate within Bahraini FIR RVSM airspace after submitting a flight plan indicating RVSM status in item 10 of the ICAO flight plan. Non-RVSM-compliant aircraft are not permitted to operate within RVSM airspace. Under special circumstances, however, a non-RVSM-compliant state aircraft may request approval to use RVSM airspace within the emirate’s FIR.
There are restrictions to be aware of when arriving from Afghanistan. Per Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) 07/09 – and due to concerns regarding security clearance of passengers, luggage and cargo – all civil-registered aircraft departing Afghanistan are only permitted to land at UAE aerodromes if they’ve departed from either Kabul (OAKB) or Kandahar (OAKN) and have completed appropriate security screening.
7. Confirm hotel and local transport arrangements as early as possible
OBBI has a good selection of 4- and 5-star hotels (including large international hotel chains). Best practice is to book 4- or 5-star hotel accommodations as early as possible due to high demand during the Bahrain Grand Prix period. OTBD and OEDF also have good selections of 4- and 5-star hotels, including international chains. If you’re not familiar with these areas, it’s best to avoid rental vehicles due to traffic issues and possible road closures during the Formula 1 event period. Prepaid local transport (car with driver) is the preferred option for many business aircraft operators, and your ground handler will be able to make these arrangements for you.
8. Check online for additional information
More information on the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix – race dates, schedules and ticket purchase options, etc. – can be found on the Formula 1 website.
Particularly if you’re setting up a short-notice trip to this year’s Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, it’s important to make best use of available lead time. There are permit lead times to consider, and preferred hotel options will be less abundant for shorter-notice operations. It’s best to begin working with your 3rd-party provider, and ground handler, as soon as a firm schedule is known.