Charter Report Interviews

Capitalizing on Recovery

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Capitalizing on Recovery
Jolie Howard
Jolie Howard
CEO L’VOYAGE

How has 2022 been so far for L’VOYAGE?

During COVID-19, many things stopped, with borders restrictions discouraging people from travelling. We saw people only taking a one-way trip; they were either trying to get out of the region, or go home. There was no real business travel and certainly no leisure-related travel at all.

In 2022 though, many international borders began opening up, especially in Europe, the US, and some even easing in Asia, so we have seen a 100% increase in our business this year. That 100% started from a low base though, but this year we are definitely seeing a lot more regular activity.

With less charter flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, did L’VOYAGE look at offering different services?

We supported one way traffic this year and last year, as airlines have not been operating at their usual schedules. We had been serving new segments of the market, and new entrants to private aviation. Apart from private jet charter flights, we also provide air ticketing, hotel booking, luxury travel management, local experience packages in Hong Kong and advisory services. As our business spans across the region and internationally, we provided these services during COVID as well. In addition, we brought in many operators outside the region as many Asia-based aircraft were not flying outside the region due to restrictions at their home base.

It’s not just enquiries from people wanting to leave, but bookings from those who have been wanting to travel for a long time.

Hong Kong recently moved to a “0+3” quarantine arrangement for inbound travellers, effectively scrapping mandatory hotel quarantine. How has that affected bookings?

We definitely received many enquiries for outbound and return trips as well. So it’s not just enquiries from people wanting to leave, but bookings from those who have been wanting to travel for a long time, so we are seeing a lot more normal round trips being taken.

Once we go to “0+0” we will see another level of people coming to Hong Kong. Right now, “0+3” is really for Hong Kong-based people who are planning on going out for a trip and coming back. We still haven’t seen many people travelling from Singapore to Hong Kong for say, three days, and or going to Vietnam to travel around or for business reasons. However, we expect a greater recovery once Hong Kong eventually shifts to “0+0” and things to slowly go back to normal once it does.

What sorts of changes are you anticipating within the private jet market in the post-COVID era?

I think we will see a wave of new entrants to the charter market, with a few of these entrants coming from the first-class sectors, and new products would be needed to cater to this new class of clients in addition to serving frequent flyers on private jets. Client behavior has also changed when it comes to booking private jets. The booking process will need to be more efficient to cater to the younger demographic, who are entering the charter markets.

Are there any new markets that you’re seeing any activity in?

Most of the trips that we are seeing at the moment are leisure-related, with a lot of trips being planned around Christmas time. As for popular Asian destinations, we are seeing activity around Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam, but we are also seeing lots of new entrants into business jets as well, especially in the leisure market. For business trips we are seeing demand for both long-haul, and some short-haul, but the increases are more leisure-related.

Will demand for business aviation continue post-pandemic, especially among new clients?

Business aviation in Asia is not cheap – it is actually more expensive compared to the US or Europe.

One reason is that in Europe, there are more operators and aircraft types for our clients to choose from, but in Asia, flights can range from USD$40,000 – $50,000 per trip, so this level of pricing calls for a certain type of customer. A trend we are seeing is that the clients who used to fly first class – say on Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines, or any other airline that provides good first class service – have now acquired a taste for the private jet lifestyle and are unlikely to go back to commercial airlines. This is a trend we really like to see. While we can’t say for sure that they will always charter a private jet for every trip, it’s always going to be one of their options, depending on their schedule.

Is there a shortage of charter aircraft in Asia?

Yes there are. The industry has seen a decrease in aircraft in China as a lot of them were sold during the pandemic, so choices are still limited within Asia-Pacific. But overall, we aren’t seeing a big increase in aircraft numbers. In fact a lot aircraft have left, so we say that there aren’t really enough charter aircraft in the region. Over the past 12 months, we used lots of aircraft from operators outside of the region, but during the summer season it was quite busy for those operators outside of Asia, so it was a bit of a struggle to arrange flights. Luckily it’s a bit easier now. We continue to support a lot of those operators with their trips into the region, such as by providing operational support and helping with permits etc., as many of them have not visited Asia before.

L’VOYAGE

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