The business aviation market in mainland China has been challenging in recent years, partly due to the government’s austerity measures, but the consensus in the industry is that China’s business aviation market is starting to take off again and that Southeast Asia is experiencing some good growth too.

“We are well past that [the austerity measures]. China was recovering in 2016 and I certainly expect that the annual figures for 2017, once released, will show healthy fleet growth for business jets in China,” says Jeff Lowe, managing director of the Asian Sky Group consultancy based in Hong Kong.

He says buyers in China still prefer the larger business jets, but they are becoming more astute. “We’ve seen a shift in the buyers and their requirements. More and more of the requirements are driven by the corporate need versus, maybe if you go back five years, where it was more driven by personal needs. So many of the long-range aircraft are being purchased, because there is a long-range need. Many Chinese corporate users, conglomerates, state-owned enterprises are all expanding overseas and that means requirements for long-range aircraft. There’s many Chinese development projects in Africa, Europe and in South America,” says Lowe.

In terms of Southeast Asia’s business aviation market, Lowe says: “We’re not seeing any startling growth in any Southeast Asian country. But they are continuing to grow, although it’s single-digit growth rather than double-digit.” He says the regulations pertaining to business aviation in Asia-Pacific still need to be improved, as does the airport infrastructure.

Sarah Kalmeta, who sits on the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) board of governors, says there need to be more business aviation airports in the Asia-Pacific region. There are very few business aviation airports in this region as compared, for example, to the U.S., says Kalmeta, who is based in Hong Kong and is also regional director of operations for Asia-Pacific at Universal Weather and Aviation.

She says business jet operators in the region are often having to use commercial airports, which are increasingly congested and subject to slot constraints.

Kalmeta points to IATA’s forecast, which predicts that from 2015 to 2035 Asia-Pacific will account for more than half of the world’s new passenger traffic. She also says IATA forecasts that by 2023 most of the major capital city airports in Asia will have reached their full design capacity. Some airports have already reached their design capacity, such as Jakarta airport, she adds.

Another issue the business aviation community continues to face is that civil aviation regulators in the region tend to be more focused on commercial airline operators, says Kalmeta. There is still much work to be done to educate regulators about the merits and value of business aviation, she adds.

The business aviation sector is posting healthy growth figures in Asia-Pacific, says Kalmeta, “but it is really about us making sure we have the infrastructure in place and get the right framework in place with the civil aviation regulators, so we can continue to grow in future.”

She also says AsBAA is very active in promoting the business aviation sector to students, as part of its AsBAA Discovery program, so the industry can attract the workforce of the future. Kalmeta says AsbAA has been working with tertiary institutions in the region on this initiative.