VistaJet Set To Start Operations in China
VistaJet expects to have its new operation in China up and running by the end of 2014 if it achieves its goal of getting its local air operators certificate approved by early in the fourth quarter of this year. Ahead of this week’s ABACE show, the Europe-based private flight provider was giving no further details of its local partnership arrangements for the China operation, but it has previously been in discussion with Beijing Airlines.
Meanwhile, VistaJet has added three or four more staff to its office in Hong Kong and the company also now has an office in Beijing. “This shows how strong we see the potential there [in Asia],” said chief commercial officer Ian Moore. “The growth is definitely there for the type of aircraft we have.”
The company’s China fleet will consist of an as-yet-unspecified number of the new Bombardier Global, Challenger 350 and Challenger 605 aircraft that it has on order. By June of this year, it is due to start receiving one Global 6000 each month from the batch of up to 142 aircraft that VistaJet ordered and optioned back in November 2012. This year it is due to get eight Challenger 350s, which will replace the six remaining Learjet 60s in its fleet. It still has 10 Challenger 605s to be delivered.
“What we are also seeing is very good [sales] numbers right from Asia and, in fact, there is now more of a mix [of new business] from Greater Asia, rather than just from China itself,” Moore told AIN. He said clients in Southeast Asia, in particular, have shown strong interest in VistaJet’s Flight Solutions Program (FSP) through which clients can commit to contracts giving them guaranteed fleet ability for a specific number of flight hours. Today around 60 percent of VistaJet’s business comes through the FSP, which is up from around 35 percent just a few years ago.
Service Attracts Clients
Despite the phenomenal economic growth still being seen in many parts of Asia, VistaJet still sees business aviation in the region as being in the early stages of development. “It will be for years to come, and we still have to convince markets here that the service is worth the money,” said Moore. Mainly because there are still relatively few private aviation options in Asia, this sales effort requires a more educational approach than it might in more mature markets in the West, according to Moore.
In some cases, new customers are drawn to private aviation due to the absence of convenient, high-quality airline service. But, Moore maintained, even in places like Hong Kong, which are key airline hubs in the region, travelers just are not assured of being able to book trips with an acceptable level of service and with the schedules they want.
According to VistaJet, the growth in Asian demand has been on a par with the 20- to 25-percent growth rates it claims to be achieving in other parts of the world. “The only reason we haven’t grown more [in Asia] is because of the still limited number of aircraft there,” said Moore.
As is its practice everywhere, VistaJet (Booth P618) does not position aircraft at fixed bases, but instead moves them around according to passenger needs. It carefully analyzes client travel patterns around the world to determine how to shift its fleet around in order to meet its guaranteed availability commitments.
The company’s pilots work a 17 days on-duty/13 days off-duty shift pattern and for now they all commute in and out of the region as needed since none of them live in Asia. VistaJet’s flight attendants do tend to be based in the regions where they work and generally speak at least one “local” language in addition to English.
Customers who commit to large numbers of flight hours–generally 200 or more each year–enjoy special perks such as their own dedicated flight attendants or a full-time personal account manager to oversee their trip arrangements.