The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has the potential to be a “big market” for smartphone ride-sharing applications targeted at private helicopters and jets, but would need to develop the necessary logistics to support this market, according to the chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA).

Uber tapped the market last year with the launch of a helicopter service, named UberChopper, in the UAE that offered temporary services to Formula 1 fans to fly them from Dubai to Abu Dhabi for the Grand Prix race. At the time, Uber said the app proved popular and that the service could become permanent.

Ali Ahmed Alnaqbi, MEBAA’s founding chairman, said there is appetite for ride-sharing apps for consumers willing to pay to avoid long commutes and traffic on the roads. “I think there would be huge potential for helicopter services here, especially when cities are becoming congested,” he said.

However, he said the infrastructure needed to make it a reality is currently underdeveloped. Other considerations would be ensuring there was enough authorised landing space to make it feasible for a permanent service to be launched.

“Now most of the high rise buildings are provided with helipads for services, but it is a very premature market. It is very interesting for commercial use. I think it is something that is unavoidable,” he told reporters at a media event in Dubai last week. More info

By Shane McGinley