Bangkok handler MJets reports traffic increase

 - September 22, 2010, 8:07 AM

MJets, the sole handling provider for business aircraft at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, is seeing a recovery in traffic volumes following the severe disruption to Thailand’s economy during the political unrest in May and June. Between March 16, when the company’s five-year handling license began, and the end of July, the new MJets FBO handled barely 150 aircraft, with the number dropping by 60 percent, to around 20 per month in May and June. But during July, the number of aircraft served increased to 35 and, according to MJets, traffic continued to rise last month.

The company, which is part of Thai hospitality and leisure group Minor International, told AIN that it has made a significant investment to upgrade Don Mueang’s private aviation terminal since signing the handling contract with Airports of Thailand on November 30 last year. The 2,000-sq-ft building includes showers, lounges for passengers and crew, a business center and a flight-planning room. MJets has also provided an area for immigration and customs procedures, and invested in ground support equipment.

The handling license covers all aircraft weighing less than 45 metric tons (99,207 pounds). MJets explained that it had not paid upfront in bidding for the license but had instead guaranteed minimum concession fees to be paid to AOT throughout the term of the concession. It claimed that its bid for these concession fees had been 10 million Thai Bhat (almost $30,000) higher than the second closest bid.

Some flight planning and handling supervision providers expressed concern about the selection of MJets, which is an executive aircraft charter operator, and this led to some aircraft choosing to use the Thai capital’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport instead of Don Mueang. However, MJets now says that Don Mueang accounts for as much as 98 percent of Bangkok’s business aviation traffic.

The MJets FBO is led by managing director Jaiyavat Navaraj, who has spent 28 years in airline ground operations for carriers such as Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, SAS and Austrian Airlines. With a degree in business management, he has completed training in load control, dangerous goods, ramp safety, emergency response, airport security and customer service. In his previous position at Suvarnabhumi, he oversaw operations for 87 carriers there.

For the Don Mueang FBO, MJets has ­recruited an English-speaking staff with experience in ground handling, flight dispatch, ramp safety and aircraft maintenance.

Just over 300 feet from the terminal is a dedicated ramp for parking business and private aircraft with a total of 13 ­aircraft bays. More parking is available at a more remote ramp area, and MJets says there is no shortage of parking capacity. MJets also has two 16,000-sq-ft hangars available for customers at Don Mueang, having recently added a second unit. Line maintenance and aircraft cleaning are available on site.

Don Mueang Airport, which is open around the clock, has two runways–one 12,139 feet in length and the other 11,461 feet. With the exception of two scheduled airlines, Nok Air and One-Two-Go, business aviation has the airport almost to itself.

Basic handling charges range from $590 for an aircraft weighing up to three metric tons (6,613 pounds) to $1,920 for aircraft weighing between 26 and 45 metric tons (up to 99,206 pounds). These rates exclude services such as ground power and crew/passenger transportation to the terminal. Technical stops are subject to a 50-percent discount on handling fees, and with the necessary landing and overflight permits charged at $235 and $175, respectively.

MJets also offers handling support at other Thai airports and has declared its intention to expand its FBO business at other locations. The operation at Don Mueang carries $40 million in insurance.

MJets Enjoys Charter Growth

MJets’ three-aircraft charter fleet has seen a 15-percent increase in activity so far this year. Through the end of July, the company had logged just over 300 flight hours.

The company operates two jets–a Cessna Citation X and a Citation CJ3–as well as a Piper Malibu Mirage piston single. MJets employs a mix of Thai and expatriate pilots and mechanics–all of them trained by FlightSafety International in the U.S. It has plans to expand its fleet with more jets for both executive charter and emergency medical operations. –