Business Aviation News

Business Aviation Sector Prepares for China’s Reopening

Business Aviation Sector Prepares for China’s Reopening

The business aviation sector is gearing up for the reopening of mainland China’s border, as a surge in demand for both business and leisure travel to and from the country is expected to kickstart the recovery of the aviation sector.

China’s border, which for almost three years has made it difficult for both travelers and residents to enter the country due to limited daily quotas and harsh quarantines, will open on January 8, 2023, according to new policies announced by the country’s National Health Commission. International travelers with negative nucleic acid tests will be allowed to enter the country with all inbound quarantine measures being dropped.

Both mainland China and Hong Kong have largely depended on each other for business over many years, with the pandemic-induced slowdown impacting Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre (HKBAC), Hong Kong’s only Fixed Base Operator (FBO), the most.

The scope of business jet movement in Hong Kong “decreased drastically” despite growing demand for chartered flights while COVID restrictions were still in place, according to Chris Barrow, Director of Operations, HKBAC.

Mainland China’s business aviation industry has suffered during the last three years as a result of COVID-related restrictions. Hong Kong, which has long been regarded as an international aviation hub and a “gateway” between China and the rest of the world, saw challenges within the business aviation sector up until the city scrapped mandatory hotel quarantine in September 2022.

Days after China announced its border reopening, Hong Kong further lifted its vaccine pass requirements and compulsory nucleic acid tests for inbound travelers starting from December 29.

“We expect rapid development driven by strong business and social demands both from the mainland and the world. The business aviation sector will resume quickly,” Barrow said.

Since HKBAC commenced its latest facility expansion project in October 2022, the FBO has been working closely with Hong Kong authorities to handle the potential increase in business aviation activity.

Internal metrics from Universal Weather and Aviation, a US general aviation trip support and handling company, show that travel to Asia this year still remains roughly 25-30 percent lower than 2019 levels. However, the company is also expecting a more pronounced business recovery, in light of the latest policy announcements.

“The primary reasons for the plunge in foreign operator traffic to China are the strict quarantine and State Approval requirements, so dropping the mandatory quarantine requirement and State Council approval will definitely lead to an uptick,” said Yini Lin, Interim Managing Director, Universal Aviation China.

“We are hopeful that a full reopening of China is the catalyst the region needs to create a massive surge in travel to the region similar to what other regions of the world experienced when the largest and most visited countries eased requirements,” Lin said.

In view of the relaxation of COVID-related restrictions in the Greater China region, Hong Kong-based business jet operator Sino Jet is also anticipating a business boom for the sector in the coming 2023.

“Sino Jet has received increasing inquiries about international air travel, charter flights and private jet management. It is anticipated there will be great demand and exponential growth in the private jet industry going forward in the new year,” said Jenny Lau, President, Sino Jet Group.