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Sky's the limit for business aviation

(China Daily)

09:48, May 01, 2013

Aircraft parked at the the Asia Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in Shanghai earlier this month. Gao erqiang / China Daily

Rival operators compete for their share of a market which experts say is set to soar

When Ji Xingzhuo first launched his business jet operation, in Hong Kong in 2006, China had only about 20 business aircraft in total.

By 2012, the number in the Chinese mainland had risen to 187 — the most in the Asia and Pacific region — with Ji's company operating 17 of them.

Now the chairman of Air Taxi (Hong Kong) Business Jet Co Ltd, Ji has witnessed, first hand, the boom in China's business aviation market, particularly since 2008.

His company flies jets between the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and some foreign cities in Southeast Asia.

"My clients are mainly high-end tourist companies and they use the jets to transport their customers," he said.

Statistics from JetNet LLC, the air industry market research firm based in the US, show that China's business aircraft fleet increased 103 percent in the decade to 2012.

The sector has outperformed the growth of the general civil aviation industry in China, which experienced a 28 percent rise in 2011, according to Li Jiaxiang, head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

The number of business jet operators is also growing fast.

Three big players have dominated the business aviation market since 2003, but all have experienced mixed fortunes during the years.

More general aviation enterprises have also shifted their attention to the business end of the market.

There were 15 business jet operators in China in 2012 and 41 enterprises were preparing to launch operations, according to the CAAC, with many operators reporting that the economic slowdown has done little to dampen enthusiasm to enter the fray.

"Our aircraft are flying over 70 hours monthly and the business has been largely unaffected by the recession," said Wang Chenglong, regional sales manager at Hanhua Airlines, a business jet operator based out of Dalian, in Liaoning province.

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