Bombardier’s new Flexjet Asia executive charter program began operations on February 22 in a bid to make business aviation more readily available to visiting Westerners and the continent’s indigenous business community.
The Canadian manufacturer has appointed the following five operating partners, offering a fleet of Learjet 31As and 45s and Challenger 604s and 601-3Rs: China’s Shandong Airlines Rainbow Jet; Subic International Air Charter of the Philippines; Macau-based Jet Asia; Singapore-based Pacific Flight Services (part of the Singapore Technologies group); and ExecuJet Australia. The program was formally unveiled at February’s Asian Aerospace 2002 show in Singapore (see report on page 26).
Initially Flexjet Asia is purely an ad hoc charter service, with customers booking individual flights via the program’s call center or Web site at the operator’s standard hourly rates. What the program offers are assurances of service quality and safety. All aircraft must be less than 10 years old and the participating operators are subject to audit by Wyvern Aviation Consulting of the U.S.
According to Flexjet Asia general manager Gregory Kalinin, Bombardier intends to expand the program to offer block-charter rates for clients committing to 50 or more flight hours per year, with aircraft-availability guarantees and other benefits (along the lines of Flexjet Europe’s recently launched Jet Membership program [see AIN, March, page 6]).
“Initially we are offering maximum flexibility backed by the Bombardier name and assured safety standards,” he told AIN.
Flexjet Asia will be run through call centers in Hong Kong and Washington. The operations hub is in Hong Kong and will be managed by newly appointed operations manager Ricky Leung.
In the first instance, the program will be aimed mainly at Western businesses and non-governmental organizations needing dependable air transportation within Asia as an alternative to first-class airline service. Some customers will already have their own corporate aircraft but will find it more cost effective to use the Flexjet Asia fleet, especially considering the operational hurdles to business aviation that still prevail throughout the continent, such as the long lead-time flight permits in China. Demand from Asia/Pacific-based customers is expected to pick up in the medium to long term.
Kalinin said that the single-point-of-contact approach to charter bookings is a tried and trusted formula pioneered by Bombardier Skyjet, the online charter-booking service based in the U.S. capital. “It will give real-time online access to fleet status,” he explained. Flexjet Asia is also expected to provide supplemental lift to other charter operators in the region.
Subic International is due to add a new Bombardier Continental to its fleet next year. Mike Fahey, the manufacturer’s new Dubai-based Asia/Pacific, Africa and Middle East regional v-p, said it would seek to have other Bombardier business jets added to Flexjet Asia as demand evolved.
During the Asian Aerospace 2002 show, Bombardier also announced the first Asian customer for its just-launched Global 5000. Hong Kong-based Sino Private Aviation Ltd. signed for the Global Express-derived transport on February 28. The 5000 is set to fly during the first quarter of next year and to enter service by the end of 2004.