Requests for charter flight price quotes, a bellwether of business aviation activity, have been growing in China by more than 20 percent annually over the past three years, according to data released on the eve of ABACE 2014 by Avinode (Booth H430).
Quote requests sent through the Swedish company’s online charter marketplace for flights to and from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan grew from 9,701 in 2011 to 11,684 in 2012 (up around 20.5 percent), and to 14,369 in 2013 (up around 23 percent). But the data and analysis provider is the first to put an asterisk beside these figures, due to the relatively low volume of inquiries in this developing market, along with a lack of data about actual charter flights that subsequently occurred. “We’re not able to draw any conclusions about whether the market is increasing or decreasing,” said Magnus Henriksson, Avinode business unit manager.
Part of Avinode’s mission here at ABACE 2014 is to overcome that data gap by meeting with “as many buyers in the market as we can” and explaining why they should use Avinode’s charter booking portal, said Gustav Andreasen, the company’s regional representative. “We know [charter] operators in the region and have good relationships with them. Now we need to find buyers, brokers and travel agents, people who are booking with operators.”
Avinode’s platform allows operators to list their aircraft and availability, and brokers to source lift, negotiate deals and book aircraft, all in real time. In more developed markets, comparing online booking activity with actual flight data from Eurocontrol, the Federal Aviation Administration and other sources enables Avinode to offer a host of data analysis and forecasting services. For example, the data can help operators to decide where to base aircraft to maximize potential bookings, or the type of aircraft to add to their fleets to take advantage of market demand.
Yet despite evidence of business aviation’s growth in China, air charter has been slow to take off, hampered by an unwillingness among many owners to permit their aircraft to be used by “strangers,” and a lack of familiarity with this access model among potential customers with the need and the financial means to charter business aircraft.
“From what we have seen, a lot of aircraft are coming into the region, but not a lot are going out to the charter market,” said Andreasen. But brokers and operators in China have ample reason to work with Avinode nonetheless, he added. For example, if charter operators list their fleets on the Avinode site, “when U.S. and European brokers are looking for lift in China, and they type in ‘Hong Kong to Beijing,’ your aircraft will pop up and provide exposure for your company.”
At its booth here this year the company is offering its demonstrate its system in Chinese, “so the operator new to Avinode will be able to sit down and understand it in their native language,” said Andreasen. In August the company introduced enhancements to its charter-pricing tool, incorporating landing and overnight fees, seasonal pricing and aircraft performance profiles, making it easier to develop accurate charter price quotes. The cost of the service for operators is driven primarily by the number of aircraft in their fleets.
While the data-driven company declines to make forecasts based on the statistics at hand, the information is insightful in its own right. The nuggets include:
• For the past three years the Gulfstream G200 and Challenger 605 have held the number 1 and number2 spots as most in demand aircraft for charter flights within China, accounting for about one-third of all quote requests. Doubtless this says as much about what aircraft are available in the market as it does about customer preferences; and:
• Favored aircraft for international charter flights into China, Hong Kong and Taiwan show much more diversity. Last year Bombardier’s Global 5000 held the top spot for quote requests for such flights, while the Challenger 605 took the number-one position in 2012, and the Gulfstream G550 in 2011.
Avinode’s data also reveals that Hong Kong International, Beijing Capital and Shanghai’s Hongqiao airports accounted for the overwhelming majority of quote requests for charter flights over the past three years, amounting for some 70 percent of all departure and 60 percent of all arrival quote inquiries. As for where charter customers may be traveling, Beijing Capital to Hong Kong International, and Sanya Fenghuang to Hong Kong International, have been the number-one and number-two most popular routes by quote requests for the past three years running.
How long will it be before Avinode can collect the information it needs to make predictions about where the China business aviation market is headed? That’s another forecast the numbers-oriented company is reluctant to make. “First we need to get them into the charter market,” concluded Andreasen. “Then we can really get some data.”