Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thailand's business jet service companies

Tycoon William Heinecke, known for his Minor empire, has expanded into another line of business _ executive jet charters. The American-born executive with Thai nationality yesterday launched Minor Aviation Co (MA) offering business jet charter service in Thailand.

The business is targeted at corporate, well-to-do leisure and VIP travellers who need speed, convenience, luxury, exclusivity and security in air transport.

Set up as a privately owned undertaking, Minor Aviation is one of two business jet charter service providers in Thailand, and was the first to secure the licence to operate unscheduled charter air service from the Department of Civil Aviation early this year.

The other player is Executive Wings, operated by Bangkok-based Siam Land Flying Co, owned by the Charoen Pokphand (CP) group. Mr Heinecke sees the venture as a tool to help executives and VIPs maximise time and overcome other limitations.

''Speed is a very important factor in the world of business,'' said the 58-year-old executive who has been flying private aircraft for two decades.

MA is operating a brand new US-made Cessna Citation CJ3 executive jet that seats up to seven passengers and travels at up to 773 km an hour. It has been used by Minor executives and other corporate clients such as energy firms, multinational companies and banks.

The company will add a second jet, the Cessna Citation X, the fastest civilian aircraft in the world, in June 2008. The twin-jet aircraft, which costs US$21 million, can fly at up to Mach 0.92 and carry eight to 12 passengers with two crew over a maximum distance of 6,020 km.

MA also has a Piper Malibu Mirage, a US-made light turboprop aircraft. The company has ordered a Cessna CJ4, a stretch extension of the CJ3 that is due for delivery in 2011.

While MA evaluates demand for executive jet charter service in Thailand, Mr Heinecke told the Bangkok Post that the company might enlarge its fleet to six aircraft over the next three years to serve rising personal and business travel.

Rival Siam Land Flying Co last August introduced the Hawker 850 XP, a mid-size twin-engine corporate jet aircraft.

The Minor chief expects revenue of 50 million baht in the first year of MA's operation. The company hopes to break even in the next three years and begin generating profit in five to seven years.

MA's current destinations include Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.With the arrival of the Citation X, the company aims to offer longer-haul routes to the Middle East or Hong Kong.

MA has four full-time pilots, three of them Thai. Mr Heinecke believes Thailand has the potential to compete with Singapore as a jet charter centre in Asia in terms of location and human resources.

Thailand is a gateway to Asia in terms of trade and tourism, especially for its connections with Hong Kong and China, he noted.