Asian Opportunity Dawns For Comlux
The past 12 months have seen Comlux increase its Asian footprint with aircraft management contracts and a high-profile assignment to complete the interior of a large-cabin jet on order by a major automobile group from the region. On display at the ABACE show this week in Shanghai are an Airbus ACJ318 and a Bombardier Global Express operated by the Swiss-based business aviation services group. The company is also introducing its new Chinese name, “Yi Hua,” meaning “comfort and luxury.”
The ACJ318 is based in Shanghai from where it is operated on a purely private basis for its owners Jong Hwa Chin, chairman of the Minth Group, and his son William China, who is president of Wilko Creative Inc. Comlux’s increasingly global management fleet also includes an ACJ319 based in Macau that is available for charter. In addition to its base in Macau, the company also has a commercial office in Hong Kong and is preparing to transfer one of its senior executives there to lead its further expansion into the Asia Pacific market.
For now, Comlux continues to operate its first two China-based aircraft under its European air operator’s certificate (AOC). Company president Richard Gaona explained that foreign operators can operate six of seven flights within China before being required to make a flight outside the country and, so far, this has not proved to be an obstacle to its operations.
“We have an entrepreneurial approach at Comlux and I am not excluding [the possibility] that we might get our own AOC in China,” Gaona told AIN. “But for that you need a 51-percent shareholding, for which you need the right [Chinese] partner, and we do now have a good partnership with the [ACJ318] owner in Shanghai.”
For now, the European group is focusing its efforts on learning more about the Asian culture and how this should shape its approach to customer service. Comlux has been recruiting Asian cabin crew to be better attuned to the needs and preferences of its customers in this part of the world. It also has an operation in the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, whose capital Almaty is a five-hour flight west of Beijing.
Another possible platform for partnership elsewhere in Asia was the contract that Comlux won last year to complete a Boeing Business Jet ordered by South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. The aircraft is due to arrive at the Comlux America facility in Indianapolis before the end of June and the cabin interior to be installed is being designed by Comlux Creatives. This will be the second BBJ completion for Comlux America and its fifth overall. Gaona said that one slightly unwelcome outcome of the group’s success in winning more completions work is that there is insufficient capacity for it to take on a pending refurbishment of the company’s Boeing 767 aircraft.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Comlux Aviation Services division has been expanding its maintenance, repair and overhaul portfolio; it was recently selected by an undisclosed government to support its ACJ fleet. Its Fly Comlux management group gets involved in helping clients with the initial acceptance of their new aircraft by providing the required Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization (Camo) support.
According to Gaona, the main hotspots in the Asian market continue to be Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore, with the Philippines also identified as having great potential. “With double-digit growth [in gross domestic product], everything is possible in Asia,” he concluded. o