Business aviation in Asia: the same but different?

28 Mar 2018

At Avinode, we are keeping our eyes on the rapidly evolving private aviation market in Asia. Niche target markets, strict regulations and a preference for large jets are a few points that make this market unique, but just how different is bizav in Asia?

At Avinode, we’re really looking forward to watching private aviation in Asia grow in the years to come. And we’re sure there will be some fascinating debates at this year’s Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) in Shanghai (China) from April 17-19. Let’s now have look at a few differences between the emerging Asian market and the mature industries in Europe and the US. 

Operators and brokers love ‘WeChat’

Asian business jet customers make direct telephone bookings with operators far more commonly than their counterparts in Europe and the US, who increasingly use smartphone booking apps. Yet the use of smartphones in Asia is soaring; the data portal Statista predicts there will be nearly 1.5 billion smartphone users in the Asia-Pacific region in 2019, rising from fewer than 890 million users in 2014. As a result, it’s likely we will see the number and quality of Asian bizav smartphone apps increase too (more on this later). 

We’re already seeing Asian brokers and operators working together through the hugely popular ‘WeChat’ mobile messaging app, developed in China. Brokers often issue flight requests on WeChat, inviting operators to forward their bids through the app. 

An ultra-rich clientele

Unsurprisingly, as the market is still maturing, customers in Asia are less familiar with the subtle distinctions between different business jet types. Seeing as many Asian clients are ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), they’re not often concerned about the different operating costs of jets anyway. As such, high-end ultra-long-range jets are more popular in Asia than small or mid-size jets, even when the distances being flown are not particularly long. And Asian UHNWIs (much like their Russian counterparts) rarely face a critical public reaction to the owning or chartering of business jets. In Europe and the US, where businesses fly privately more often than in Asia, companies and organizations almost always have to consider PR to ensure their business jet use will not be seen as extravagant. 

Battles with bureaucracy 

Even the UHNWIs of Asia face limitations, however. China’s airspace, for example, is largely controlled by the state/military, which dramatically limits the scope and flexibility of civilian operations. Flight planning becomes a difficult and lengthy process, with short-notice services particularly hard to organize. The complex Chinese aviation regulations also mean operators and brokers find quote generation far less straightforward than their European and US counterparts. The fact that ‘click-to-book’ pricing is such a challenge might well explain why bizav smartphone apps are not as established in China as one might have expected for such a tech-savvy country. But if we see more airspace open up and more regulations ease, that situation might change. 

Popular Phuket

There’s certainly a lot to be excited and optimistic about in Asia. Across China, India, Malaysia (especially Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore, there are new millionaires every day, eager to enjoy the prestige and comfort of business aviation. 

And who doesn’t want to go on holiday in a private jet? That’s one reason Phuket (Thailand) is one of the most popular destinations in Asia (based on flight requests received by Avinode), alongside business and leisure hot spots like Hong Kong, Beijing and Delhi. 

Sharing economy exciting

One final point – keep an eye on the internet-led sharing economy in Asia (and especially China). This concept already looms large in many aspects of civic life, especially when it comes to the use of bicycles and cars. Young people growing up at ease with this approach may well bring the sharing economy to Asian business aviation too. 

The prospects for private aviation in Asia are looking bright. If those paperwork problems can be resolved in China, anything is possible. We can’t wait to be part of what happens next.

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