Thailand's private jet traffic has gathered pace, soaring more than 50% in the first seven months of the year and signalling the emergence of a general aviation trend that was almost unknown in the country until recently.
Traffic managed by Mjets, Thailand's biggest provider of chartered private jets and ground handler of executive jets, reached 1,350 flights in January-July, up from 849 in the same period last year.
The outlook is for a continuation at such a rate for the rest of the year unless jitters over political violence occur in the second half, said Mjets executive chairman Jaiyavat Navaraj.
As Mjets controls about 80% of private jet ground handlings in Thailand, the numbers reflect the state of the industry.
Mr Jaiyavat attributed the growth in traffic, firstly, to greater international awareness of the existence of a quality facility and aeronautical services dedicated to private jets at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport.
Mjets provides such services as an FBO (fixed-base operator) at Don Mueang under a concession granted by Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).
"Those who have already used the Don Mueang facility have kept coming back, while others who previously never flew here have given it a try," Mr Jaiyavat told the Bangkok Post.
Secondly, more Thai billionaires are acquiring jets for personal use or chartering them through operators like Mjets, while more elite travellers are opting to fly privately.
In the year to date, Thailand has seen five additional corporate jets take to the skies to serve Thai billionaires and corporate giants.
Myanmar's opening also contributed to the greater use of private jets from and through Thailand, particularly by executives and investors seeking business opportunities in Myanmar as it emerged from a half-century of isolation.
"You've got corporate leaders travelling from the West and picking up private jets in Bangkok to fly to Nay Pyi Taw or Yangon, which are not so well connected by normal commercial flights," said Mr Jaiyavat.
In particular, travelling to the Myanmar capital is not easy, as direct international connections with Nay Pyi Taw have yet to be developed and reaching it requires a domestic commercial flight from Yangon or a five-hour drive.
Thailand's general aviation can be developed by greater support for FBO facilities at key Thai airports such as Phuket and Chiang Mai, streamlining bureacracy and ensuring sufficient customs and immigration help.
Mr Jaiyavat called on Thai authorities to grant a permit covering multiple international flights through Thailand rather than a permit only good for an individual flight. The so-called block permit works like a multiple entry visa.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business