As Honda Aircraft passes its 100-aircraft milestone, the business jet maker is taking a methodical approach to building its customer base by introducing the aircraft to new markets and customers. This philosophy has sprung new arrangements such as the plan for the HondaJet China dealership to launch FlightJoy next year with three of the HondaJet light twins. It also spurred development of the arrangement with ANA for HondaJets to serve as feeder aircraft on certain of the Japanese carrier’s routes.
“Our goal is to expand business aviation,” said Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino, rather that go after every existing market slice.
In China, FlightJoy will serve as a venue to not only develop the HondaJet brand but introduce the market to light jet operations. Plans initially call for charter, but Fujino said over time this could lead to a range of offerings, such as time-sharing.
But in China, charter works best initially because the pilot population is not as developed. The owner-pilot sales that are much more prevalent in the U.S. are far more difficult in China for now. The HondaJet China arrangement, he said, will open the door to other possibilities as the market develops.
Fujino also sees the ANA arrangement as an opportunity to build the HondaJet brand and open possibilities to customers who may not be able to afford to own business jets.
Plans call to launch ANA feeder operations in Chicago and Los Angeles in the August-September timeframe. Under this partnership, ANA would fly passengers on routes to Chicago and Los Angeles, and then the HondaJets would be available for feeder services to end destinations from both those cities.
He sees this arrangement expanding into tourism opportunities. ANA is launching A380 service to Honolulu in spring 2019, and Fujino said the HondaJet could provide feeder operations to enable passengers to get to the other islands from Honolulu.
Long-term, Fujino would like to see this expand into the Japanese market. Honda Aircraft has long been cultivating its brand there, but has not yet established a dealer for direct sales. The company instead has been waiting for the business aviation market to further develop. Fujino said he sees a slow change in the perception and recognition on the part of the Japanese government to make further accommodations for business aviation. A big motivator is the upcoming Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, he said, which is spurring an understanding that slots will need to be increased.
Demand in China, meanwhile, has been strong–the first eight orders have already come in and interest during this week’s ABACE has been solid, Fujino said.
In Asia, Honda Aircraft also has established a dealer in Thailand, and Fujino said they are seeing solid activity in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Fujino did not detail plans for further expansion of the dealer network, which is now also in North, South and Latin America, India, as well as Europe, saying only that this is under study.
As for HondaJet orders, Honda Aircraft did not reveal the size of its backlog, but Fujino maintains that orders have been steady throughout the dealers' regions. In fact, the company, which last month rolled out its 100th model, is planning to boost production from four a month to five by the end of the year.
Clarification: Honsan General Aviation operates as HondaJet China under a dealer arrangement with Honda Aircraft. An article in the April 17 edition of ABACE Convention News incorrectly characterized the relationship between Honda Aircraft and Honsan.