Hong Kong Jet, a subsidiary of HNA Group, the mainland's fourth-biggest aviation group, is enjoying unprecedented growth thanks to booming sales of private jets and privately-chartered flights in the region.
Driven by the increasing demand for private air travel from mainland companies that are expanding into overseas markets, Hong Kong has become the home base for a growing number of corporate jets. At the last count, some 60 private jets were based at Hong Kong International Airport, up from just three in 1998.
The airport has a dedicated facility for private jets, the Business Aviation Centre, with its own passenger terminal, customs and immigration, hangars and parking bays.
Hong Kong Jet has responded to the surge in demand by adding 10 aircraft to its fleet that 10 weeks ago numbered just one jet. The fleet is valued at US$420 million.
Two of the 11 aircraft, a Gulfstream G550 and a Gulfstream G-IV, are owned by the company and are used for chartered flights. The G550 is an ultra-long-haul aircraft that can fly non-stop from Hong Kong to London or San Francisco.
The remaining nine planes are owned by third parties and are operated by Hong Kong Jet under management contracts. Many mainland private jet owners are first-time buyers and typically engage airline companies to operate the craft and undertake maintenance.
It is expected that demand for business jets will slow from current peak levels in light of the 'soft-landing' under way in the mainland economy. Industry observers report that aircraft sales have been quiet since the Lunar New Year.
But Hong Kong Jet expects its fleet will grow to more than 15 by the end of the year, says chief executive Chris Buchholz.
'Our cutting-edge advantage of having both a Hong Kong AOC [air operators certificate] and a mainland AOC offers customers great flexibility in operating aircraft under their preferred registration in various jurisdictions,' Buchholz said.
Hong Kong Jet provides services ranging from aircraft management, to business jet charters, aircraft maintenance management, and an aircraft sales consultancy.