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Asia prepares for private plane boom

Asia prepares for private plane boom

As head of sales in Asia for Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, he is responsible for marketing his employer´s private jets to Asians.

And Bombardier is banking on a new model - the Global Express, on display at the Hong Kong Asian Aerospace show this week - to woo more rich Asian customers.

The interior of the aircraft is fitted out with all the things one would need to be comfortable on a long flight including fold-out twin beds, a dining area and tables that are fully functioning work areas when needed, but can be tucked away when not in use.

It also boasts the latest technology including what Mr Dixon describes as the "bordello setting" where all the window blinds shut automatically at a touch of a button, and ambient pink lights come on.

Time and money

It´s the sort of life to which many Asians are now aspiring.

"Here in Hong Kong, five years ago there were a thousand private planes coming in and going out," he says. "Now it´s 3,000.

"The business is growing and the airport infrastructure is here."

That kind of lifestyle comes at a cost. The Bombardier Global Express carries a price tag of $ 53m (GBP 26m).

Still, aside from rich individuals, a key growth market in Asia is with companies, whose busy chief executives see the saving in time as far more precious than the cost of the plane itself.

But Asia presents certain challenges to the keen private jet owner, whether personal or corporate.

Once a plane is bought, it has to be maintained. Perhaps it needs to be chartered out when not in use - a service for which many in Hong Kong turn to Metrojet, the territory´s largest operator of private jets and helicopters.

Red tape

But Metrojet´s own chief operating officer, Chris Buchholz, would be the first to acknowledge that it is not always easy owning and running a plane here.

Costs and heavy bureaucracy have combined, he says, to stifle the growth of business aviation in the region.

In India, for example, he has found that permits to fly over the subcontinent often take days to be approved.

And once landing fees, overflight fees, ground travel fees and all the other expenses mount up, he puts the cost of flying to certain destinations at as much as several thousand US dollars per flight hour.

"In North America, there are virtually no landing fees, especially when you use general aviation airports," he says.

"Unfortunately in Asia, you don´t have general aviation airports - you have to use the airports dominated by the airlines that have very high landing fees.

"This is slowing down business aviation in Asia."

So although airport infrastructure is improving, it may simply be impossible to jet off to some of the more far-flung exotic destinations, whose airports are not equipped to handle small aircraft.

It may be some years, then, before the jet set truly takes off in Asia.

/ Новости