CJI Town Hall: Asia’s fleet may double in five years if…


SINGAPORE-JULY 9 2016: Merlion statue fountain in Merlion Park and Singapore city skyline at sunrise on July 9 2016. Merlion fountain is one of the most famous tourist attraction in Singapore.

Doubling Asia’s business jet fleet to match the size of Europe’s is a monumental task, but could be achieved within the next five years, according to Nilesh Pattanayak, regional vice president of Sales Asia, Bombardier.

Speaking at Corporate Jet Investor’s Town Hall online meeting, during the CJI Asia 2022 conference in Singapore (pictured), Pattanayak said Asia could rival Europe’s fleet numbers in “optimistically five or six years” if concept buyers are assured that Asia’s policies and infrastructure issues will be improved.

“I think we are at the cusp of a tipping point,” he said. “As someone who’s been in this industry for 17 years, I’m seeing a number of concept buyers entering the market that we’ve never seen before.”

Pattanayak added: “It’s our job, collectively as stakeholders, in the industry to change the perception of policy makers. If we change their perceptions, then [charter permit] policies can change and make it easier to use business aircraft in Asia.”

Alex Jiao, chairman and CEO, Hongkong Jet, and Simon Bambridge, director of aircraft management, TAG Aviation, agreed improvements are needed to encourage concept buyers and boost fleet figures.

Jiao said the main policy challenge is the time taken to receive a charter permit. “In the US market, it’s so easy [to charter] anytime, anywhere,” he said. “If you want to go, you can just go. But here in Asia, you [submit for] permits first which maybe takes three to five days, and then you need to check the availability of the airport and you might not get the slot.”

Bambridge highlighted the lack of infrastructure. “The US has 5,500 airports, while China has four times the US population and only 230 airports,” he said. “We have to make it easier for people to use these machines. People [in Asia] go commercial because they can buy a ticket and leave that same afternoon or that morning. They can’t do that on a business jet. We have to make it easier with more airports, more infrastructure and regulatory reform.”

One solution offered by Pattanayak was using the influence of clients to persuade policy-makers. “Some of our clients have the biggest pull and access to government officials, so we have to work with them and convince them to convince the stakeholders about adopting and reforming policies,” he said. “We have to work together to get more charter business here. The existing guys will keep on renewing the fleet, but to increase the [fleet] from 800 to 1,600 where Europe is sitting, we need to go after the charter market and concept buyers.”

According to the panel, there are business aviation hotspots across Southeast Asia, specifically Indonesia and Vietnam. But Jiao worried about China’s Covid-19 restrictions putting off concept buyers. “For the China market, I don’t have a very positive outlook for this year and next year, because they [haven’t stopped] their quarantine policy,” he said. “For the China market, it may be 2024 before they start to recover. I would guess they will open their borders at the end of Q1 [first quarter] next year and then take half a year to recover economically before buying new aircraft.”

The CJI Asia 2022 Town Hall, ‘Growing the Asian Market’, took place on June 29th 2022. All Town Hall episodes are now available as podcasts. You can listen here or on Spotify and other popular podcast platforms.

The next Town Hall online meeting, ‘Who is on the frontline of market change?’, takes place on July 13th.