Jaiyavat Navaraj, Executive Chairman – MJets

MJets in 2014 pioneered business aviation in Myanmar in a 50:50 joint venture with Wah Wah Group, and has won a bid to establish a facility at the New Delhi airport. Other possible locations for expansion, Mr Jaiyavat said, included Salalah airport in Oman, as well as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos which have been under negotiation for two years.

The company was launched in the nineties by entrepreneur William E. Heinecke and was joined by veteran investor Kirit Shah, another of Thailand’s most accomplished business leaders, in 2007. MJets rose onwards and upwards, expanding its fleet, establishing the first and only private jet terminal and Fixed Base Operation (FBO) facility in Thailand, moving into new markets including Myanmar Cambodia, Vietnam Laos and India, and continuing to expand its portfolio of private aviation-centred business lines. 

MJets was awarded as the best FBO in Asia for the 5th consecutive year, as voted by Aviation International News (AIN) in 2020, which is recognised as the pinnacle of excellence in the aviation industry.

MJets provides 7 distinct services: world-class aircraft charter service, FBO/private jet terminal, ground handling services, air ambulance services, aircraft management, aircraft maintenance & AOG services, consultancy aircraft sales & acquisition. MJets owned and managed fleet includes Gulfstream V, Cessna Citation Bravo, Cessna Citation X Gulfstream 200 and others like Hawker, Dassault, Beechcraft, Hondajet, and King Air

“Establishing in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) countries is challenging, unlike building a hotel,” he said. The licensing procedure involves different bodies including the local airport authority, aviation department and transport ministry.

The sluggish process, he said, reflected unsupportive policies and a lack of understanding about the benefits of the business aviation industry.

Congestion at major airports also hinders growth in Southeast Asia as airport operators will give priority to commercial airliners. That causes aircraft to be repositioned to other less congested airports after dropping off passengers, “in contrast with the advantage of a business jet which promotes convenience and agility of travel”, Mr Jaiyavat said.

Flexible flight schedules and access to airports where commercial options are unavailable, as well as greater privacy, make business jets an attractive alternative, in his view.

“In business aircraft, we own the time,” he said, adding that businesses needing to oversee operations in various locations should consider owning or chartering a corporate jet to increase productivity.

Whether one buys or charters comes down to frequency of fleet utilisation, he said. A business expecting to make a half-dozen or more trips per week should buy its own aircraft.

MJets charges charter customers US$8,500 per operating hour for its 14-seater long-range Gulfstream GV, which costs around $13 million to buy new. Assuming other factors remain unchanged, the per-hour cost translates to about 63 days of nonstop operation to make up the initial fleet price.

However, customers must factor in other fixed costs such as crew, hangar and insurance. There are also variable costs of around $4,381.80 per hour for fuel and maintenance of a Gulfstream GV, according to Aircraftcostcalculator.com.

Costs are mainly concentrated on fuel, maintenance and pilot expense, Mr Jaiyavat said. Considering a plane will be in service for longer than a decade, it is an asset worth having for some corporate buyers.

“Money is not enough to own a business aircraft, you need to have knowledge. … That’s the reason a company like ours exists,” he said.

Southeast Asia, with the exception of Singapore, is still in its infancy when it comes to supporting the growth of business aviation, and regulations vary by country. Overfly and landing permits can be particularly troublesome.

In Thailand, he said, it takes 3-5 days to issue such permits and the operator has to renew the permits for every flight flown, while Singapore issues a permit similar to a multiple-entry visa, good for 6-12 months.

Though operating costs for a Thailand-based fleet are considered competitive, Singapore offers a tax advantage on imports of plane parts, and is also home to manufacturer-owned maintenance centers.

“Thailand could actually become a hub of business aviation if the government sets a clear direction and the private sector joins hands,” Mr Jaiyavat said. “If we open up, it will be difficult even for Singapore to compete.” Reference original copy

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