China's rich flying high in private jets

Updated: 2010-07-22 12:03
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Flight delays, traffic jams and the need for privacy have led China's super rich to travel by private planes, even though space and flight restrictions can still make it difficult for them to take off.

Insiders warned that restrictions could put a damper on the demand for private planes, while the desire for more convenient transport may drive this class of traveler to resort to the use of charter flight services.

Private aircraft manufacturers and dealers agreed that China and other Asian countries are becoming increasingly important markets, as their traditional customers in the United States and Europe continue to struggle with economic recovery.

The most optimistic forecast so far, made by Hong Kong's Asia Jet CEO Mike Walsh, was that China would surpass the US in terms of possessing the largest number of private planes in the world. The US currently has 200,000 private planes.

Other industry insiders disagreed with the forecast and projected an annual growth of 20 percent as a more rational estimate.

"Only when the current difficult approval procedures are removed can the demand for private aircraft ownership achieve explosive growth," said Yang Xiaonong, one of China's earliest private plane consultants who has sold more than a dozen private planes since the 1990s.

Due to the complicated procedures, only 30 private planes are registered with the civil aviation authorities, he estimated.

Many other private planes have no "legal identity" and are flown stealth, without reporting their flight plans to air traffic controllers.

Earlier this year, civil aviation authorities in Zhejiang province detected three illegal flights, whose owners were punished.

The difficulty of meeting all three requirements - a pilot license, a registered plane and approval of the flight plan by air traffic control - has placed most private plane owners in a difficult position.

Yang said one of his customers, who owns hotels in Dongguan, Guangdong province, can only fly from his hotels to nearby beaches.

Only a small number of corporate users regularly use their business jets by paying professional companies millions of yuan each year to handle the logistics.

"The limited number of airports in the country and other restrictions will always impede growth," Yang said.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

China's rich flying high in private jets

About the broadcaster:

China's rich flying high in private jets

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is fluent in Korean and has a 2-year-old son.