Charter Report Interviews

Three Years into the Pandemic – A China Business Jet Company’s Outlook for the Future

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Three Years into the Pandemic – A China Business Jet Company’s Outlook for the Future
JJ Chen
JJ Chen
Founder, Chairman, CEO Astro Air

Although founded in 2012, Astro Air started its official operation in 2016, headquartered in Shenzhen, with its main operating base located at the Shenzhen Baoan International Airport. The company is mainly engaged in aircraft management, VIP charter services, customized tours, aviation infrastructure, aircraft trading, maintenance management, aviation training and other business aviation services. Astro Air has set up bases in several major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Chengdu, and is committed to providing quality comprehensive aircraft travel services to customers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

In July 2022, Astro Air successfully obtained the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) Stage III certification from the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC), becoming one of the few business aircraft companies in China to have done so. Many companies in China remain deeply troubled by COVID-19 at the moment and Astro Air is no exception. To better understand the operational planning under these challenging times and the related businesses of Astro Air, Asian Sky Group spoke to Mr. JJ Chen, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Astro Air.

How do you see the development of Astro Air in 2021-2022?

At the beginning of COVID-19, the negative impact was so huge that the employees could not come to work and the company could not operate normally. Up to now, the restrictions needed to control the pandemic also have an impact the whole industry. However, Astro Air saw this time as an opportunity to make some internal adjustments and management changes to better prepare and plan for the development in the era of COVID-19. In the face of a force majeure such as the pandemic, Astro Air has made some effective corporate reforms.

What is your outlook for 2023 in light of the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions in China? What are the positive expectations?

Astro Air’s marketing strategy focuses on hard success metrics by leveraging digital channels more effectively and supplementing our online campaign with offline media. Astro Air has raised tens of millions of RMB in Series B and Series B+ financing rounds in the past two years. These funds will be used for the future growth of the company. Astro Air originally planned to complete its IPO listing in 2024, but that may be affected now because of the pandemic’s ongoing impact.

My prediction for 2023 is that the industry will gradually recover because the negative impact of COVID-19 will gradually decrease. But I suppose the recovery mainly depends on three things. First, the customs policy between Hong Kong and mainland China; second, the volume of domestic and international flights around the world to restore 70%-80% to that of pre-pandemic levels; third, the daily covid test requirements. If there is no substantial change, the industry may still suffer. However, Astro Air has made preparations through improving its internal structure and processes, which should yield a positive outcome for us in 2023.

Have customers’ needs and expectations for business jets changed significantly in recent years? In what aspects?

At present, Astro Air still maintains a good relationship with a lot of customers. COVID-19 itself has contributed to the changing pattern of high-end travel, but the trend is directly limited by policy control. We have had some inquiries and consultations from customers who are new to the world of business jets,

but whether they are new or experienced, there is an increase in customers who are ready to use business jets to travel or to charter flights. It is possible that consumers will no longer buy a whole business jet so easily, which may instead promote stronger development of the charter business. The customer base and consumption habits are also moving in a positive direction.

What are your thoughts on the future global business jet travel market in China?

First, business jets are for long-distance transport, but factors such as COVID-19 related border policies continue to hamper the industry. Currently, Astro Air operates international flights to North America, South America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Japan, Korea and Africa. We also hope to have better measures and more flexible policies in relation to the pandemic. New services are now available, such as pet flights, although this is still nascent. The frequency of business jet travel is not high, and it is currently difficult for companies to see sufficient scale to make it cost-effective. More manpower and material resources may need to be invested to ensure a high standard and quality level of service. In addition, there may not be such a large demand, which may be a loss for aviation companies.

Astro Air

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