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Follow-ups -eshrag News:

NEW YORK: A flight-hailing service that began in the US 12 years ago will enter the Middle East within the next year, Ferren Rajput, founder and CEO of ONEflight International, told Arab News on the fringes of SALT New York on Wednesday.

The service allows people to book a private jet in as little as five hours, but Rajput said with the introduction of a new app, currently in development, the company hopes to reduce the waiting time in a process he calls the “Uberization of private jet flying.”

Since he started his company 12 years ago it has expanded to Europe, and he hopes that by 2023 Gulf Arabs will have the opportunity to use the service.

“We haven’t left them (the Gulf region) out,” Rajput said. “We just haven’t expanded into the Middle East.”

“I think the Middle East is a prime market, especially for our kind of model. We just haven’t gone there, but we’re certainly looking to go out there within the next year.”

ONEflight International, much like the hailing apps, operates as the go-between the customer and a bank of aircraft owned privately by third parties.

He said that the service is not used by the super-rich — they still tend to own their own planes — instead it is attracting wealthier players in the business market.

“Right now, you would say a majority of customers are in the range of probably 45 on up to about 60. We’re seeing a growth in the 35-40 range.”

But he believes as the business expands to the Gulf, the age range will fall further.

“I would tend to believe in the UAE that it’s going to be even lower because of the wealth. So we’re estimating there’s a huge influx of those that are the up-and-comers of the 35-45 range.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when most airlines were laying off staff, he said that his business had flourished.

“Our industry actually jumped up by a good 22  percent,” he said referring to the US market. “The European market seems to be jumping up now. A little lagged behind the US market. And that has really come around due to the fact that people didn’t want to fly private.”

He believes that those still using his business post-pandemic will stay with it.

SALT is a global thought-leadership and networking forum encompassing finance, technology and geopolitics. Its biannual events and technology solutions connect leading asset managers and entrepreneurs with top asset owners, investment advisers and policy experts.

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