It’s been two years since Jetex Flight Support opened its new office in China to provide assistance both to the growing numbers of Chinese business aircraft operators and to visiting foreign aircraft. Most of the 10-strong team in Beijing are Chinese, but with some colleagues from Jetex headquarters in Dubai. In addition to being comfortable in Mandarin and English, the Jetex staff can help customers in Arabic, French and Russian.
“We have been aiming to provide support for a more stable expansion [of business aviation] in China, with more Chinese operators now flying worldwide and more foreign-registered aircraft operating into China and East Asia,” said Kaimin Li, Jetex regional manager for Greater China and East Asia. Most of Jetex’s Chinese staff are graduates of an aviation college and/or have experience in service businesses.
One of the main tasks for the Jetex staff in China is to arrange the required overflight and landing permits at short notice and they are now achieving this in as little as two working days or less, according to Li. Other key tasks include updating clients on Chinese Notams and slot restrictions, while also providing supervision of handling services offered at airports around China.
Slots are probably the main challenge for operators in China these days. “Until now in Beijing there has been only one international airport and it is over capacity and is currently allowing only about 30 slots for private jets each day,” Li told AIN.
Beijing is an especially severe problem because so many business aircraft want to go there and the growing locally based fleet can barely find enough capacity for its own purposes. The situation in Shanghai is somewhat better because there are at least two international airports serving the city.
Around the vast country, operators also can use the joint civil/military airports but this takes expertise and access to a local navigator because the routes for these locations are not generally published internationally. This is another set of challenges that Jetex can resolve, by getting clear information on routing, arranging a navigator and filing all the paperwork needed for a specific flight plan. Officially, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) requires two weeks’ notice to access these airports, but Jetex has been able to halve this time with the right preparation. The navigator has to join the aircraft at a designated international airport and is paid on a day rate, which could include time needed to position for the flight.
Beyond Beijing and Shanghai, ground-handling facilities for business aircraft are still very limited. Jetex’s role as a service coordinator is particularly critical in this respect with the company needing to pay close attention to local arrangements for needs such as fuel, water, cleaning and catering. The company has capacity to provide this level of supervision for more than 50 flights per month in China and, in addition to the main two cities, it is now seeing strong demand for flights to Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Sanya.
“Translation is certainly needed but you also need to understand how the workflow is at Chinese airports to make the whole process more efficient,” explained Li. At the majority of airports where there is no FBO, passengers and crew need to go through standard airline channels for customs and immigration, which, without expert help, can result in complications.
Another potential headache for operators is what to do if passengers are late for a departing flight to the extent that a slot is missed. This means that the slot has to be revalidated and it will also need to be established that the flight crew will not exceed their permitted duty hours. “This is where one-to-one supervision is really necessary,” said Li.
Jetex is now looking to extend its role in arranging charter flights in China. The company has agreements in place with several leading Chinese operators, which, it says, allow it to offer competitive rates and to arrange flights at short notice. It can also provide concierge support for services such as booking hotels and limousines.
According to Li, CAAC is now showing a willingness to revise its rules to more readily accommodate business aviation growth. “We can expect a major breakthrough within three years or so, as we have already witnessed in the past how the delay of obtaining landing permits was reduced from seven working days to three or less,” she concluded.