Business Jet Destination Guide: Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and attracts considerable business aviation traffic. The UAE is probably the easiest and least restrictive region in the Middle East in terms of business aircraft permit requirements. We hear of few issues with landing permit requests or revisions for this area. Still, it’s crucial to ensure that any information/documentation submitted with permit requests is correct and valid, as this will help avoid permit delays.
Here is what you need to know:
1. Airport Options
Abu Dhabi has two GA airport options – OMAA and Bateen (OMAD). Both are 24-hour airports of entry (AOEs), located close to the city center, complete with fixed-base operators (FBOs) and full GA support services. OMAA is the scheduled commercial hub airport, while OMAD is more focused on business aviation. Abu Dhabi does not currently have Stage 2 noise restrictions. There are no airport restrictions in place in terms of operating APUs on the ramp.
Abu Dhabi currently has no airport slots at either OMAA or OMAD.
There is also no prior permission required (PPR) mandates at either OMAA or OMAD.
There’s plenty of GA parking available at both airports, for overnight and longer-term stays. Still, it’s best to get parking requests in as early as possible to ensure there will be no issues or delays.
Both OMAA and OMAD have FBOs available with full GA support infrastructure and services. Note that during busy periods of commercial aviation movements, OMAA can become somewhat congested with possible delays for fuel uplift, services, and ground taxi. Ground support equipment (GSE) is available at both locations; however, towbar availability for your specific make/model of aircraft should always be pre-confirmed.
A wide range of hotel options is available in Abu Dhabi, including many international chain brands. Plan on about 350-400 USD/night for crew accommodations during the annual Grand Prix period, as well as possible extended room cancellation policies. Many preferred hotels close to the race circuit may be sold out, but we don’t expect issues in sourcing 4- and 5-star crew accommodations, even for short-notice or last-minute operations.
4. Ground transport
You may consider pre-paid (car with driver) transport or even public taxis from reputable companies for crew transport. Rideshare services are also available. You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs.
When operating to either Abu Dhabi airport, it’s essential to have a fuel release. It should be forwarded in advance to your local handler. The PIC should also carry the release – not just a copy, but the actual confirmation of the request – to show the fuel provider before hook up.
6. In-flight catering
In-flight catering services are excellent in this region. Pretty much anything you require, with the exception of pork products, can be provided quickly and efficiently. While 24 hours’ notification of catering uplifts is recommended a minimum lead time of at least 18 hours should be planned on. Should you wish to cater directly from a local hotel or restaurant, this will not an issue, and your handler an assist with such requests.
Abu Dhabi is generally a safe area. Both airports are highly secure, with adequate fencing and airside access controls, routine patrols, and electronic surveillance. Aircraft guards are not necessary but can be arranged with advance notification if your flight department standard operating procedures (SOPs) specify this.
Overflight and landing permits are required for Abu Dhabi and the UAE. These are relatively easy to obtain with an official lead time of four business days. Although weekends in this region are Friday-Saturday, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) operates 24/7 in terms of processing and revising permits. Once a permit is approved, a confirmation will be issued, and this must be placed in the remarks section of your flight plan.
For landing permits, Abu Dhabi only needs a certificate of airworthiness. However, for Dubai, you must provide certificates of registration and airworthiness, noise certificate, worldwide insurance, passenger and crew information, and Air Operator Certificate (in the case of charter). Local contact information and purpose of the trip is not needed for UAE landing permits.
Permits for Abu Dhabi are valid +72 hours and are relatively easy to revise. For schedule changes within the 72-hour validity period notification only is recommended, but not required. For modifications beyond the validity period, a revision request is needed, and this request will usually be processed within 24 hours.
Cabotage has never been an issue in the UAE as each Emirate acts autonomously.
Customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) are cleared within the fixed base operator (FBO) at Abu Dhabi Intl (OMAA) and Bateen (OMAD). The clearance process is 15-20 minutes, depending upon traffic at the moment. Operators may also request VIP clearance and handling at either Abu Dhabi airport. There’s an additional charge for this, and VIP clearance must be set up before arrival. This option allows for a more private clearance process as well as access to a VIP lounge. The handlers require a stamped GenDec before arrival for both the inbound and outbound legs. Not sending this before arrival could slow down the CIQ process. Also, make sure all passports are clear of any stamps from Israel, arriving the UAE with an Israeli CIQ stamp will result in denial of entry into the country.
Most passenger nationalities require visas for the UAE. In some cases, depending upon nationality, visas on arrival are possible. For example, U.S. citizens may obtain visas upon arrival for stays of up to 30 days so long as documentation has been forwarded in advance. This process takes only a few minutes to complete upon arrival.
Crew, who are listed on the gen dec, have crew ID and are in uniform, do not require visa to enter or leave Abu Dhabi.
Passengers need at least three months’ remaining validity on passports for stays not longer than three months. If you plan to remain in the UAE for more than three months, you’ll need at least six months’ remaining validity.
eAPIS filings are now mandatory for all arrivals/departures into all five Emirates. At present, it’s still possible to file eAPIS via your ground handler rather than directly from the operator.
11. Flight planning
Consider sanctioned countries and “safety of flight” airspace when routing to/from the Emirates. Syria has U.S.-sanctioned airspace to be aware of while Iraq and Afghanistan have areas of prohibited airspace to consider. In Yemen, there is certain southern airspace that needs to be avoided, but many operators prefer avoiding overflying Yemen altogether. Meanwhile, the Sinai region and Israel have safety of flight issues below flight level (FL) 260. Somalia currently has no published airspace restrictions, but maintaining at least FL 260 is always a best practice. While Iran airspace is neither prohibited nor sanctioned certain operators avoid such overflights, based on their own standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Abu Dhabi has a hot desert climate. Operators should prepare for intense heat and humidity in the summer months. Occasional sandstorms occur throughout this time.
13. Tech stops
Technical stops in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) (OMDB) may take longer due to traffic delays, congestion, and jet fuel delivery waits. Preferred tech stops in the region include Abu Dhabi, UAE (OMAA), and Bahrain, Bahrain (OBBI). Depending on your routing, Marka, Amman, Jordan (OJAM); and Beirut, Lebanon (OLBA) offer full services and quick turns. In the past, Cairo, Egypt (HECA), and Luxor, Egypt (HELX) were frequently used. However, because of the changing political situation in the area, keep in mind safety considerations before choosing either of these destinations for a tech stop.
14. Peak season
There is not a peak season for the UAE, with the exception of, but traffic does increase significantly during the annual Grand Prix held in November. However, the best time to visit Abu Dhabi is between April and May or from September to October. The spring and fall shoulder seasons yield pleasant weather, manageable crowds and reasonable hotel rates. For the best weather — not too hot and not too humid — you’ll want to visit in the wintertime (December through March).
15. Regulatory considerations
Due to ongoing political skirmishes in the region, it’s not officially possible for GA to operate directly between the UAE and Qatar. If you need to stop at Qatar en route to/from Abu Dhabi, this may be accomplished by making a tech stop at OOMS (Muscat) or another international location. You may also apply to the Abu Dhabi CAA for direct operating permission, but this may or may not be approved. Plan on two to three weeks lead time for such requests.
16. Other considerations
While it’s advisable and recommended for males and females to dress conservatively in the Emirates, the environment is not nearly as strict as in Saudi Arabia. Female crew is not expected to cover their heads, to travel with a male escort, or refrain from driving cars. Onboard alcohol is not subject to the strict quarantine and sealing requirements prevalent in the Kingdom. Be aware that some services may slow down somewhat during holiday periods – such as the month-long Ramadan celebration. Local weekends are Thursday-Friday. Note that permit processing and revisions may take slightly longer during holidays and weekends.
- Vaccinations: The UAE does not require any vaccinations.
- Language issues: There are no language issues within the UAE. Most people speak English.
- Special documentation: Insurance requirements -The UAE has mandated liability insurance minimums in effect. In most cases, minimum liability insurance requirements are 250,000 special drawing rights (SDRs) per passenger. In the case of non-commercial aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 2,700 kg or less, minimum insurance per passenger must be at least 100,000 SDRs. For more detailed or specific information on mandated insurance requirements, contact your trip support provider.
- Pets: Travelling with pets to the UAE can be very difficult. It is best to verify the requirements with your service provider.
- Weapons The gun laws in the UAE are stringent, verify the requirements based on the circumstances of your travel.
Abu Dhabi has a few different options for airports with full services and parking. There aren’t any operating restrictions to consider when utilizing airports in this area. The UAE is a lower threat level, and operators should refer to their SOPs regarding any security needs.
While the permit request process for Abu Dhabi is one of the easier worldwide, with minimal documentation requirements, it’s vital to consider officially mandated permit lead times. As with any international operation, it’s essential to confirm all travel documentation requirements and CIQ processes before the day of operation. GA clearances at Abu Dhabi are within the FBO, and the process is usually speedy. Also, note that visas for passengers may be possible to arrange upon arrival depending on the nationality, while crew that operates on official business into the country don’t require a visa.