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VD Gulf is MRO service provider located in Sharjah, the UAE. The company claims to be “the biggest Middle East MRO-provider” already and continues service expansion, having added Boeing 777 service to its portfolio earlier in 2019. VD Gulf offers appealing prices, reportedly as low as ~20% below industry standard, in addition to easily available slots. However, escalating conflicts with complaining customers raise questions whether the company’s business practices are always crystal clear.
Two clients of the MRO provider told AeroTime their experience was far from ideal, pointing to communication problems, ranging from inadequate to non-existent, lack of transparency and continuous delays. The latter aspect can get especially pricey in the aviation industry, where aircraft grounding can “cost” as much as €10,000-25,000 per day.
Routine maintenance tasks on four Airbus A321s overshot deadlines by three to four months, SmartLynx Airlines has disclosed. While none of the planes were structurally damaged or had heavy corrosion, which could reasonably prolong the repair time, still none of them were returned on time.
The charter airline’s CEO, Zygimantas Surintas, says communication with the MRO company is problematic and often appears deceitful. “In one case, we had to make three demo flights of the same plane. Same defects kept reappearing despite VD Gulf’s claims that these particular issues had already been fixed,” says Surintas.
Another case, that the Latvian airline’s CEO remembers, also involved communication and schedule problems. An airplane was supposed to be undergoing inspection at the Sharjah facility when, in reality, it (allegedly) stood outside the hangar for two months. “We were told that all inspections are done and only minor works were left,” tells Surintas. “On the date when the aircraft was due for delivery, it turned out that the better part of inspection had not been done yet and had to be repeated”. Consequently, the aircraft was returned a month later than expected.
KlasJet, a business aviation company, claims a standard C-Check service on their Boeing 737 turned into a months-long saga, leaving the company with five times bigger bill than initially agreed upon. The sides are still engaged in a dispute over the issue. “In our contract it was estimated that a standard C-Check [of KlasJet’s aircraft] will take 25 days. But the works lasted almost three times longer ‒ two and a half months,” Justinas Bulka, CEO of KlasJet explains. “The service cost rose by almost five times from what was agreed upon in the contract”.
KlasJet claims that upon finishing the works, VD Gulf refused to give back the aircraft until receiving the final payment, comparing this to a hostage situation. Although the jetliner has since been returned, the parties remain engaged in an ongoing conflict regarding the payment.
AeroTime has reached out to VD Gulf to ask about the customers’ complaints, particularly those made by KlasJet. “I would like to inform you that commercial activity of VD Gulf is bound by contractual obligations and confidentiality,” VD Gulf’s spokesperson told AeroTime via email. “As per our policy we do not disclose such information […]”. By the time of publication of this article, the spokesperson has not yet replied to additional questions.
VD Gulf is a VDT subgroup company, which, in turn, belongs to Volga-Dnepr group. KlasJet is a business aviation company, specializing in aircraft management solutions, as well as private and corporate charter flights. SmartLynx Airlines is a Latvian charter airline. Contrary to KlasJet, SmartLynx was not a direct client of VD Gulf, but a third party. The airline was responsible for taking planes from maintenance ordered by a lessor.