Skyjet International expands in Asia

 - October 4, 2006, 9:47 AM

The Asia-Pacific region is sharing in the rapid growth achieved by Bombardier’s Skyjet International fixed-rate executive charter program. Before year-end, Bombardier will deliver more of its aircraft to charter operators in that part of the world, illustrating how the Canadian airframer is using Skyjet to stimulate new aircraft sales.

In February, Bombardier united its Jet Membership block charter program with its Flexjet and Skyjet ad hoc charter offerings to create Skyjet International. The first quarter of this year showed a 25-percent increase in customer numbers and revenues over the same period last year, and the company projects 40-percent growth between now and 2009.

Skyjet allows customers to fly within or between any of the four world regions it currently serves: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. Services are provided exclusively in Bombardier business jets by a global network of charter operators with more than 900 aircraft. All operators are audited by the manufacturer and the aircraft are maintained to factory-approved standards, with crews trained to set standards.

The Asia-Pacific network currently consists of the following six operators with 11 aircraft collectively: Macau-based Jet Asia (two Challenger 601s); Global Wings in Japan (one Learjet 45XR); Subic International Air Charter in the Philippines (one Learjet 60 and a Learjet 45); China’s Rainbow Jet (two Challenger 604s); Pacific Flight Services in Singapore (one Learjet 45); and ExecuJet Australia (one Learjet 45 and two Learjet 60s).

By year-end, two more aircraft are set to join the fleet, the first a new Global Express to be delivered to Jet Asia. A new Singapore-based private customer for a Challenger 604 will make the aircraft available for charter through a newly established company.

According to Skyjet International managing director Judith Moreton, demand for the program has clearly increased as the company has been able to offer a more seamless charter service within and between different regions of the world. Increasing charter bookings for the Asia-Pacific operators have been coming both from local individuals and companies, as well as from westerners needing transportation to pursue investment opportunities and establish operations throughout the region.

In recent months, Skyjet has signed new charter customers in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia. Moreton explained that while the majority of westerners are using the aircraft for business trips, most local clients are flying for leisure.

In her view, local customers are motivated largely by status and security concerns and they are often flying to resorts on Pacific islands, as well as in Indonesia, northern Japan and Australia.

The company also sees India as offering excellent potential for business aviation growth. For Skyjet purposes, this vast country is allocated to the Middle East region, but Moreton said that there is considerable overlap with the Asia-Pacific portion of the program.

Moreton told AIN that infrastructure and regulatory problems are beginning to ease noticeably for business aircraft operators in Asia. “Two years ago getting slots was still quite difficult, but it is now significantly easier,” she explained. “Also an increasing number of regional airports are becoming available to operators as alternatives to the main airports, and service and support businesses are springing up to support our operations.” Furthermore, the process for securing an aircraft operators certificate is reportedly getting easier in countries such as China.

For charter needs that cannot be met by existing capacity in one region, the London-based Skyjet team can also make arrangements through operators in another part of the network. For example, it recently implemented a six-month charter booking for an Asian client using a Global Express operated by a Skyjet partner from the Middle East. Similarly, it has brought in U.S.-based aircraft to serve customers in the Far East over extended periods.

Unlike operators in the three other Skyjet International regions, operators in the Asia-Pacific region are not paid on an occupied-hours basis. Instead, due to the still relatively small network of available aircraft and the large distances to be covered, flights are billed on an all-hours basis, including deadhead trips.

However, Skyjet offers discounts to Asia-Pacific customers booking higher volumes of hours and/or having trip requirements that can more readily be met by the available fleet. It also charges flights taken in the Asia-Pacific region by occupied-hour block charter customers from other parts of the world at special set rates.

The one-way, flight-hour costs for the three Bombardier aircraft currently available through Skyjet operating partners in the Asia-Pacific region are as follows: $3,200 for the Learjet 45; $3,700 for the Learjet 60; and $4,800 for the Challengers.