Jet Asia boosts fleet to lure VIP gamblers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2007, 12:00am

Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun has said he will spend more than US$100 million on a fleet of charter planes to cater to high-rolling gamblers jetting to and from the territory.

The move, aimed at fending off increasing competition in the world's largest casino market, was unveiled yesterday as Mr Ho's Jet Asia announced plans to expand its fleet from two aircraft to nine.

The company, a unit of Mr Ho's privately held Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM), yesterday announced an order with Kansas-based Hawker Beechcraft Corp for six new medium-sized Hawker aircraft valued at US$76 million and scheduled for delivery from November.

It plans to buy an additional 20-plus seat longer-range aircraft from a yet to be determined supplier. The aircraft is expected to begin service in the middle of next year.

The new aircraft will launch charter services for customers including Mr Ho's licensed casino firm, Sociedade de Jogos de Macau (SJM), starting in December.

'The continued development of the VIP gaming business of SJM is creating demand for travel packages that include private jet transportation,' a statement yesterday quoted Mr Ho as saying.

Jet Asia was set up in 1997 as the in-house flight department of STDM and it currently manages Mr Ho's two private Bombardier Challenger aircraft.

In addition to the new orders, the two existing aircraft will be replaced with a Challenger 605 and a larger Bombardier Global 5000 expected to delivered in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

'It makes a lot of sense for [Mr Ho] to take what he has always had at his disposal but never used tactically and put it to work,' Jet Asia chief executive Chuck Woods said.

In addition to flying in VIP gamblers, the rapid expansion will give Jet Asia a significant footprint in the regional market for chartered corporate air travel, where Hong Kong-based companies operate including the Kadoorie Group's Metrojet and BAA Jet Management.

Jet Asia's six Hawker aircraft are eight seaters capable of flying nonstop from Beijing to Singapore and are planned to be strategically based in cities such as Shanghai, Taipei, Macau and Kuala Lumpur.