Charter Report Profile

Asian Sky Group Charter Services

Asian Sky Group Charter Services

Daniel Tsang recently joined Asian Sky Group as Charter Services Manager. Tsang, who has worked in the industry for over seven years, started out his aviation career as a flight attendant for Dragonair and later as Chief of Cabin for Finnair. He later moved into a Business Development and Client Relations’ role with a general aviation company in Hong Kong. Tsang now credits his keen sense for, and desire to exceed, client expectations to his early years in the cabin, where he handled customer service and came to understand the needs for different types of passengers.

Prior to his first work experience in aviation, Daniel studied aviation at UKbased Coventry University and later earned a Master’s Degree in Transport Policy & Planning at the University of Hong Kong. Daniel shared his views on the charter market with the rest of the team at ASG and discussed some of the factor’s clients should consider when booking a charter.

The charter industry is in a unique position now. Can you tell us about it?

It certainly is. The focus of business jet travel is no longer all about luxury and high-end services but about hygiene and necessity of travel.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw a lot of UHNWI fleeing Asia to Europe/America and hoping to get away from the pandemic. In February, we then saw travelers return to Asia. Our clients chose to travel private, as it kept them away from crowds. From April till now, passenger charter demand is declining, as most of the repatriation flight for UHNWI have been completed and travel restrictions have become stricter.

Cargo charter is now a trend we’re seeing. Private jet operators, with VIP airliner aircraft such as the BBJ and ACJ, have begun to take on cargo missions to compensate for the loss of passenger flights. More and more private jet brokers are more open minded and accepting toward cargo missions.

Client expectations will most certainly change. How is the industry adapting to those expectations?

Hygiene is a major concern right now for all travelers, which makes social distancing and disinfection key. Onboard, many clients are requesting minimal contact with cabin crew. Therefore, service is altered. For example, meal services tend to be a one-tray services rather than served course-by-course and crew stay in the galley area as often as possible to maintain distance. There are also many new technologies used to disinfect aircraft. Many operators work with specialized cleaning companies to spray a nano layer of disinfectant in the cabin for extra protection.

Once passengers arrive at their destination, they cannot avoid the quarantine procedures. This is often done in the main terminal as the private jet FBO is often not equipped to handle this.

When can we expect the market to recover?

For now, it’s difficult to say when a full recovery will happen as the situation is ever-changing. I believe there will be a rebound of the market in the short-term, as travel for many UHNWI and HNWI is essential. This will happen in light of certain regional countries creating ‘travel bubbles’ or ‘Corona Corridors’ allowing for travel between two places. Traffic will increase in the coming months, should this happen.

What are the benefits of traveling on a private jet (particularly right now)?

In general, those who travel on private jets enjoy:

  • Privacy: This applies to departing, while waiting in an FBO and its separate lounge, as well as onboard.
  • Ease of Travel: No queue or excessive pre-boarding examinations. Passengers can relax in the lounge while designated staff check you in.
  • Luxury: While each aircraft and its amenities vary, guests can expect catering tailored to each passenger and purchased from 5-Star restaurants. Some aircraft include shower rooms, a master bedroom, dining and living spaces.
  • Flexibility: Chartering a flight means the private jet can take off in any under-served airport at the time you please, saving you time.

During this time, traveling private is considered a safer option, as passengers are able to avoid health risks from other passengers. Additionally, an aircraft and crew can be selected that have not been in the “hot zone” in the past 14 days.

What are some factors to consider when booking a charter?

  • Legal vs. Illegal: The legality of charter flights is a major concern in Asia. Some of our clients are unaware of the difference. This is discussed further throughout this report; however, it is essentially the authorities’ requirement for certain crew and operators when operating a for-hire flight. A legal charter always has higher safety standards and insurance coverage, while an illegal charter does not.
  • Operator vs Broker: It’s a common misconception that a cheaper price will be given when booked directly with the operator. In some cases, this is the case. However, if you are new to chartering and don’t fully understand the ins and outs, booking with an operator will limit your choices and eventually may lead to paying more.
  • Level of Service: We understand certain operators may provide flights for a cheaper price, but the level of service and safety record is often not up to standard. A vetting of the aircraft, crew and operator is needed. A good broker can assist with this.

Is there anything travelers should be aware of when flying in and around Asia?

  • Cabotage: Flying in Europe or in North America is relatively easy as they have open-sky policies and deregulation. However, in Asia, international flights always encounter cabotage issues which means certain country’s aircraft are not allowed to operate certain routes due to political or industrial interest. For example, a non-Taiwan registered plane cannot pick up passengers in Taiwan; only Thai-registered aircraft can operate domestic routes in Thailand.
  • Airport Traffic: Often charterers don’t realize how busy airports are in Asia. For example, in Hong Kong, it is extremely difficult to obtain a parking slot during certain hours. In some countries, this may require you to have good relationship with the authorities so that you have a higher chance receive permits and slots in time. Due to the high traffic, ground fees are much higher than in the west, which is one of the reasons why the charter cost is more expensive compared with Europe or America.
  • Financial Situation of the Operator: In 2019, we saw more than six operators close their business and some are in financial crisis. The charterer should avoid using planes from an operator with such financial records. In unfortunate cases, flights have been cancelled as yet operators were unable to refund the balance due to their own financial problems.
  • Infrastructure: In Asia, except for international hubs, GA airports are rare and support for private jets is lacking. Thus, for example, a private jet passenger may be expected to use the main terminal (albeit the Fastlane) of an airport. This is often the case in Southeast Asia.