In just the past five years, the Chinese aviation market has really taken off. Bloomberg notes that there are now more than 330 private planes in China, and buyers are expected to purchase 40 private jets in 2013, compared with 27 ordered in 2012. Business jet buyers in China have very specific tastes: large and new.
Going the distance
They prefer large, long-range aircraft; trips of 3,000 to 4,500-plus miles are common for regional users. In fact, according to an April article in Aviation Week, 61% of mainland China’s business aircraft are large, super-large, or ultra-long-range jets, or they’re corporate adaptations of airliners. The main aircraft in Chinese business fleets are the big ones, including larger Gulfstreams, Dassaults, and adapted Airbuses and Boeings.
A major influence on this market is a cultural factor: Owning a private jet has become a symbol of wealth for Chinese owners, and preowned aircraft simply won’t do. This market is interested in custom interiors that reflect the buyers’ affinity for luxury.
Exactly how will Chinese taste in aircraft affect the global market? It’s too early to tell for certain. The Chinese government has permitted private jet ownership only since 2003. Complicating forecasts is the difficulty in predicting how quickly Chinese buyers will upgrade their aircraft. The market is too new to reveal turnover times, but it is likely that owners will not want to be seen flying around in the same jet for more than six or seven years.
With this in mind, many industry insiders expect that Chinese buyers’ preferences will likely create a large supply of secondhand aircraft. These jets could be exported to other countries, such as the U.S., that have more robust and established preowned jet markets. Another possibility is that used aircraft may become more appealing to Chinese purchasers. As more Chinese businesses begin acquiring business jets, the considerably shorter wait time, smaller price tag, and value of a preowned aircraft could boost the market.
Without a crystal ball, predicting the influence of the vigorous Chinese private jet market is a difficult task. However, with China forecasted to become the world’s third-biggest private jet market by as early as 2022, one thing is certain: This is a market to watch.