VistaJet, the European-based business jet charter company, is strengthening its operations in Asia on the back of the region's growing economic and trade links with the developing world, especially between mainland China and Africa, according to senior executives.
Thomas Flohr, VistaJet's founder and chairman, is confident the region's business jet market will grow even though the company faces competition from established Hong Kong and mainland Chinese companies, including Metrojet, Deer Jet and Donghai Jet. He described the potential growth of the business jet market in mainland China as "unimaginably big".
Bombardier, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer, said there were 210 business jets registered in China last year compared with 9,725 business aircraft in North America. But the plane maker said the mainland Chinese market was forecast to grow more than 12-fold to 2,590 business jets by 2031 compared with 13,750 jets in North America by 2031.
VistaJet has already signed a collaborative marketing deal with Air China to promote VistaJet to premium passengers.
Flohr said the company had obtained a preliminary licence to operate domestically in China and was waiting for a full operating licence to be granted. This is expected to be given by the second quarter of next year, according to Robert Hersov, the chairman of VistaJet's advisory board.
Both men were in Hong Kong yesterday at the start of a roadshow to promote VistaJet's charter operations in 13 cities including Beijing, Ulan Bator, Vladivostok, Almaty, Dubai and Riyadh.
"Given the importance of Asia and especially the Chinese market, we decided the first stop should be Hong Kong," Flohr said.
He added that China's developing trade links with Africa, calling for long-haul, non-stop flights to countries such as Mozambique and Nigeria, where there are no direct commercial airline links, was one of the markets VistaJet was targeting.
The launch of the global promotion came after VistaJet announced the biggest order ever in business aviation last week with a US$7.8 billion deal for 56 Bombardier Global business jets and options for a further 86 aircraft to be delivered from 2014.
"A fair amount of the [aircraft] order is allocated to the Asian market," Flohr said.
VistaJet, which owns its fleet, already has three aircraft operating charters in Hong Kong and on the mainland.