Asian Business Aviation can look forward to ‘strong medium-term prospects’


Asian business aviation can look forward to strong medium-term prospects, with business reaching a new high-water mark in five to 10 years, according to speakers at the CJI Global 2020 forum State of the market: How Asian business aviation is faring.

Paul Jebely, Pillsbury Winthrop’s managing partner of its Hong Kong office, told delegates: “The high-water mark of business aviation in 2016 were great days, which will return again – probably within five years.” Jeff Chiang, Asian Business Aviation Association [AsBBA], estimated the industry would take five to 10 years to recover from the Covid-19 global pandemic.

“Long term, the prospects are very positive – the silver lining being that business aviation has played a critical role in humanitarian efforts in the war against Covid by providing transportation for the repatriation of citizens back from abroad and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] to various countries. It’s a difficult period in the short term but we’ll definitely be able to ride this one through.”

Minnie Kan, Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre, head of Business Development, thought the Covid-19 crisis offered business aviation an opportunity to regain airport slots and parking opportunities lost to commercial airlines over the past 20 years. “Governments and regulators are going to be forced to pivot their thinking,” said Kan.

‘Running at 1% capacity’

“I went for a meeting with Jeff [Chiang] with the Hong Kong Airport Authority a few weeks ago. They advised us the airport here in Hong Kong is running at 1% capacity and they will be lucky to recover 50% of what they forecast for 2020. It will take two to three years to recoup the losses they expect to have.

“This will help them [the authorities] to recognise that our industry [business aviation] is the one that can re-stimulate the economy, repatriate people and moving PPE around and we do need to have slots and access airports in the region.”

David Dixon, Jetcraft Asia President, predicted that business aviation would long encounter problems in securing slots in Asia. “I keep repeating the number of airports in the US versus China,” he told delegates. “There are 5,000 plus in the States and 250 to 300 in China. That’s not going to change very quickly. But the airports could be our best allies,” he said.

“The airport process and travelling for the average High Net Worth Individual [HNWI] is going to become a challenge,” said Dixon. “Take a 777-worth of passengers, it’s half a mile long to queue up under current spacing regulations. So, I think the airports are going to be business aviation’s best-selling point.” That was because of the limited exposure to people who are unknown to the HNWI.

‘More converts to business aviation’

Once the airlines recover, there could be a lot more pressure on infrastructure but by then, there may be “a lot more converts to business aviation”.

Jean-Noel Robert, Airbus Corporate Jets’ head of Business Development, told delegates: “The crazy growth rates, seen [in Asia] before 2015 have gone now. But there will be constant growth in high-end and long-range business.”

Dixon, Jetcraft Asia, was more optimistic. “I think we are on a better trajectory – four to five years. And it [business aviation in Asia] will overtake Europe within four to five years.”

Sarah Kalmeta, AsBAA/Pivot Point, was cautiously optimistic and praised industry co-operation. “The community here has really worked together,” said Kalmeta. “We’ve seen competitors getting masks for each other and moving PPE on jets as they travel around to make sure the staff are protected and things of that nature. I certainly think that the resilience and the SARS experience in this region is why Hong Kong has done so well as well as some other Asian countries. They reacted quickly.”

Meanwhile, pictured above is a 2019 Bombardier Global 6500; part of Jetcraft’s inventory.