Singapore Air Show

Skyjet hopes Olympics open doors

 - February 18, 2008, 10:58 PM

This year’s Olympic Games in Beijing could provide the catalyst for Chinese authorities to adopt a more user-friendly attitude toward business aviation, according to Judith Moreton, managing director of Bombardier’s Skyjet International block charter program. Continued inflexibility over issues such as airport and airways access combined with a shortage of aircraft has impeded business aircraft flying in a Chinese marketplace whose rising wealth could be supporting a boom. And similar issues have artificially slowed private and executive charter growth throughout Asia.

Moreton told AIN that Chinese authorities will certainly have to adopt a more flexible approach to the international business aircraft that will descend on Beijing for the games this August, including many that are operated by Olympic sponsors. “This will force the necessary legislative change,” she said.

At the same time, Skyjet looks to boost available aircraft capacity by combining with a local partner to buy aircraft to base permanently in key cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Although significant numbers of business jets are now being delivered to customers in Asia, in most cases their owners do not want to make them available for charter by third parties, as is very commonly the case in North America and Europe.

“We have had to turn flight requests down because not enough aircraft are available in Asia,” said Moreton. “But the situation is gradually improving and we are trying to encourage people to see the commercial benefits of having their aircraft available for charter.”

Globally, Skyjet’s charter operations are growing at an impressive pace, and in 2007 the UK-based Bombardier subsidiary doubled the size of its customer base. But both the Asian and Middle East markets have been growing relatively slowly. Skyjet now charters 25 aircraft flown from bases in Asia by its 12 partner operators in Macau, China, India, Pakistan, Australia, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Complex and sometimes conflicting rules on aircraft registration in some Asian countries have caused problems which often are accompanied by tax headaches. According to Moreton, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Malaysia have the region’s most developed national aircraft registers.

Unsurprisingly, given the need to cover long distances, larger business jets are proving popular in the Asia Pacific region. Bombardier rarely sells aircraft smaller than the Learjet 60 in this part of the world, and many of the new arrivals come from the Challenger or Global Express families.

Moreton concluded that the mounting difficulties on world financial markets so far appear to be doing little to soften demand for executive and private charter. “There simply is no sign of a slowdown and we believe the flexibility of the Skyjet program [in terms of the financial commitments customers make] helps in this respect,” she said.