Greater China has always dominated Asian business aviation. Hong Kong was the industry’s first beach head and many companies have been lured by the country’s huge potential. But with most of Greater China locked down since March 2020, the focus has shifted to other parts of the region. And many of them are seeing a massive increase in demand.
“We have seen as many people discovering private aviation in the last two years as we would normally expect in 10 years,” said Éric Martel, president and CEO, Bombardier speaking at Corporate Jet Investor Asia 2022 conference in Singapore last week. “And we are confident that this demand will stay.”
Operators in southeast Asia agree. “Business is quite frankly awesome. During Covid we would never have dreamt business would be at the level we are now,” said Darren Broderick, CEO of Asian Corporate Aviation Management (ACAM) based in Singapore. ACAM has added 10 aircraft to its fleet of around 30 since Covid.
Demand for charter is also rising. Air 7 Asia started flying from Singapore in December 2021 with one Citation XL. “Charter is only going to get stronger,” says Stefan Wood, its founder. “But the struggle for aircraft is real and the only thing holding business back.”
Thierry Tea, chair of Philippines helicopter and jet operator PhilJets, agrees: “We see opportunities across the region – particularly in Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia where we have recently opened.”
A significant number of the Chinese fleet has been sold since Covid began – despite the issues involved in getting pilots in to fly them out. Operators and brokers say that Macau has just one aircraft, down from more than 10 jets pre-Covid as casinos have sold their fleets.
But no one is writing off Greater China. There is a lot of confidence that there will be a big boost in demand for charter when restrictions end. Alex Jiao, chair and CEO of Hongkong Jet, expects demand to return, but is most bullish outside Greater China. “India and southeast Asia have so much potential,” he says.
It has been three years since the Asian business aviation market has been able to meet in person, so the mood was always expected to be upbeat. CJI Singapore ran alongside three successful Asian Business Aviation Association events and the opening of Bombardier’s new 290,000sq ft customer service facility and Jetex’s new FBO. But the optimism – more than 88% of delegates are confident about the next two years – was striking. And this is without Greater China.
“Southeast Asia, Australia and India are much more active at this point,” says David Dixon, president, Jetcraft Asia. “China will come back. The only question is: when?”
Demand for charter is rising in Asia, says Stefan Wood, founder Air 7. “Charter is only going to get stronger,” he says. “But the struggle for aircraft is real and the only thing holding business back.”