The Challenges of Arranging a VVIP Charter Flight in Saudi Arabia: A Real-Life Story

Mar 22, 2023

The main objective of any private jet provider is to deliver tangible solutions to their clients. Whether that comes in the shape of a private charter flight to a remote location or through a trip support service, going above and beyond is expected by customers in this industry consistently. That does not mean that everything backstage goes smoothly for those providing a service – with so many moving parts in an operation that’s just the nature of this ecosystem.

At Icarus Jet, we had a recent experience that exemplifies all the challenges of chartering a flight for VVIP clients. The flight was a domestic private jet route from Riyadh to Al Wajh in Saudi Arabia and for us, it started as a normal request. While the outcome was positive for all involved parties, the overall coordination left important knowledge for our team for future operations regarding processes and relationship management with foreign aviation authorities. 

The initial flight request

Back to the story. The client changed the initial request and added a leg to the flight to Riyadh – Al Wajh – Dubai, for the same number of passengers and date. This slight change requires a revised flight plan to understand the operational variables and availability of resources to perform the safest and most efficient flight possible. One thing is to find solutions to subsequent changes in plans for a domestic flight, yet a completely different is to do so for an international operation.

The final leg to Dubai means that this flight is international, which imposes a challenge due to the trip being regarded as cabotage by local Saudi Arabian aviation authorities. A foreign registered aircraft from a Dubai-based operator would be picking up the passengers for a domestic flight and flying internationally. Under that scenario, a straightforward flying permit would not be possible to achieve. With the payment in hand already from the client, if no permit is obtained then the flight would get canceled per operator policies and the full charter amount would apply as a cancellation charge.

The challenge of obtaining Saudi landing permits

What was a rather simple operational situation quickly became a financial issue. The operator would proceed with all the flight arrangements once the money was transferred yet as the transaction occurred during the weekend before the flight, they would receive the payment on Monday at the earliest – this scenario left the Icarus Jet team and the client with almost no time to obtain the landing permits for a flight that was scheduled to depart from Riyadh on a Tuesday. 

In order to speed up the process we sent the transaction proof to the operator for them to apply for the Saudi landing permits. This process worked and we obtained the application reference number for our clients as well as other important details requested by the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), like the flight plan, handling confirmation for Riyadh and Al Wajh, and crew details. 

In a parallel process (let’s not forget about the final international Dubai leg), our team was working on the landing permit in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Finally, both permits were obtained yet some financial issues were withstanding for the Saudi Arabia private jet charter.

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Majestic Elephant Rock of Al Ula

The payment dilemma

The operator’s insistence on receiving payment before proceeding with arrangements is a hurdle that every private jet provider needs to jump during coordination. Good relationships and trust should prevail, yet when relying on the services of a new operator, this situation may occur while truly impacting the flow of the entire process. While we were able to jumpstart the coordination by demonstrating proof of transaction during a weekend, the operator naturally wanted to see that the full funds were transferred before the flight takes off.  

The transfer was not reflected in the operators’ bank account, and we decided to pay half of the flight using our company credit card to secure the flight and reassure our client that everything was good to go for Tuesday. While the operator did see the full funds in the account, it was still not credited, therefore they held our credit card funds until they could receive the entire amount. While this situation is far from ideal, it was the only solution that worked for all involved parties. 

The resolution

The previous situation involved the creativity of various departments at Icarus Jet, including management to approve the use of the credit card transfer as a last resort solution. While there are processes in place to secure a seamless flight operation for the company and the clients, sometimes external issues like last-minute changes or the need to go with a more cost-efficient option at the operator’s level with no pre-established relationships may result in an uncertain situation that calls for outside-the-box thinking and constant communication with all involved parties.

Private charter companies like Icarus Jet with years of experience operating in Saudi Arabia understand all the moving parts and local aviation requirements needed to perform a seamless flight in the country while being able to find solutions to new variables along the process. Finally, the financial issue was entirely resolved before departure and the operator had the full extent of the payment in their accounts and we were able to recover the withheld credit card amount.

Conclusion 

While there are many moving parts from start to finish in a private jet charter flight, passengers should rest assured that everything is being settled in the safest and most cost-efficient manner possible. Although the exposed case story is just one of the many variables that may impact the coordination of a flight from a provider’s perspective, it gives passengers and operators a glimpse of all the different stages and the small milestones that need to be achieved for a seamless operation – none more important than constant and transparent communication amongst all the involved parties.

The importance of persistence and creative problem-solving skills in the charter flight industry is sometimes an overlooked aspect that can literally provide solutions to snowballing issues in any process. Arranging VVIP charter flights, especially for international routes is no walk in the park, and relying on an experienced private charter company to source a certified aircraft and manage the relationships with local international authorities is the main starting point for anyone looking to charter a private jet in Saudi Arabia, while the creativity and knowledge of a team of professionals provide incalculable added value to overcome any barriers along the runway.

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