Swiss VistaJet establishes Southeast Asia beachhead

 - May 19, 2008, 10:06 AM

Switzerland’s VistaJet (Booth No. 483) didn’t have to travel far for its appearance at EBACE this year, but it seems just as comfortable projecting a presence half-way around the world, where it has just agreed to establish a Southeast Asian regional headquarters at SkyPark Subang outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here in Geneva yesterday, the company reported on the progress of the project with the developer–and launched its so-called Flight Solution Program on which it hopes to pin much of its planned expansion into the Asia-Pacific market, Europe and beyond.

VistaJet’s new program consists of private jet partnership and ownership “solutions.” Under the partnership component, customers commit to 100, 200, 300 or 400 hours per year, for which they pay a monthly rent. Under the plan, the customer takes on no asset risk and gets guaranteed aircraft availability while VistaJet incurs all maintenance expenses and management fees.

Under the ownership plan, the customer buys an aircraft and depending on the annual hourly commitment, VistaJet pays the customer a monthly leaseback fee. The plan also guarantees availability along with no fixed costs, maintenance expenses or monthly management fees.

According to VistaJet, the Flight Solution Program costs 20 percent less than any other comparable program available today.

Appearing here yesterday, VistaJet CEO Bing Chen explained that because the company owns all its aircraft, it maintains a level of operational control and flexibility unique in the industry. It now operates 14 airplanes and holds orders on another 20. Direct charter accounts for the majority of its revenue, produced by a fleet that now includes Learjet 40XRs and 60XRs, Challenger 300s, 604/605s and 850s, Global Express XRSs and an Airbus ACJ319.

“We have the largest owned business jet fleet,” said Chen. “By tomorrow, it will be a significantly different size,” he added, referring to an expected order announcement with Bombardier Aerospace today. Two airplanes already on order, a Challenger 604 and 605, represent an initial $60 million investment in SkyPark Subang. Scheduled to arrive next month, the airplanes will form the centerpiece of an expansion project planned by Subang SkyPark–the company that holds a 59-year lease with the Malaysian government on Terminal 3 and the surrounding facilities at Subang Airport outside Kuala Lumpur.

Last December VistaJet and Subang SkyPark signed an MOU that made the latter company the exclusive FBO for all VistaJet flights, the first of which flew into Subang on May 1. Appearing with Chen yesterday, Subang SkyPark executive director Datuk Ravindran Menon said the size of the facility and amount of space available makes it one of the most promising sites for business aviation development in the world.
The former site of Kuala Lumpur’s international airport, SkyPark Subang saw 2,600 aircraft movements last year and Menon said he expects that number to increase 30 percent over the next 12 months. “The runway there can handle a 747,” said Menon. “Not many other facilities can claim that.”

Here at EBACE Subang SkyPark expects to announce still further plans for development of the 40-acre site, namely a pair of contracts to lease MRO facilities. Menon could offer few details yesterday, only that the two companies have chosen Malaysia as the host of a new maintenance hub.