Thailand on radar as business aviation hub
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Thailand on radar as business aviation hub

Dassault likes market for long-range jets

Dassault's flagship business jet, the Falcon 8X, can carry Thai executives to business facilities in other countries.
Dassault's flagship business jet, the Falcon 8X, can carry Thai executives to business facilities in other countries.

French private jet maker Dassault Aviation sees Thailand as a potential hub for business aviation in Southeast Asia.

The geographical advantage of being at the centre of a large and growing fleet of business jets in Asia-Pacific, as well as Thailand's developing aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) base, are the top factors driving the company's determination.

Jean-Michel Jacob, president of Dassault Falcon for Asia-Pacific, said he views Asia-Pacific's future demand for business jets, especially the long-range versions, as growing faster and in greater magnitude than in US and European markets.

The French executive did not predict how many private jets Asia-Pacific will acquire in the future, though he talked about 700 private jets in service in the region.

In a briefing held at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport on Tuesday, he underscored Thailand as a key business aviation market.

He said the country is the fastest-growing large market in Southeast Asia for business aviation.

Last year the number of business jets in Thailand rose by 15% to about 40 aircraft, the second-highest percentage growth in Southeast Asia after Brunei. But Thailand has a much larger fleet of business jets than Brunei, possessing the third largest in Asean after Singapore and Indonesia.

Most of Thailand's business jets are small or medium-sized aircraft, including four Dassault Falcons.

The company sees an opportunity for aircraft owners to trade up to larger business jets such as the Falcon 900LX and 8X models. It expects to land orders for two Falcon jets in Thailand soon, Mr Jacob said.

"Many Thai conglomerates have businesses overseas, such as in North America, Europe and Russia, so they need to transport their executives there," he said.

Thai companies are also investing in Asean. Bank of Thailand figures show that Thai investment in Asean states in 2017's first quarter totalled US$30 billion (1 trillion baht).

A great deal of Thailand's overseas investments are in food processing, agricultural plantations, hydroelectricity, petrochemicals, construction, mining and timber.

Many of the facilities are in areas outside of major cities and thus hard to reach using commercial airlines. Business jets are the most efficient and practical way to get to these places, Mr Jacob said.

Don Mueang airport's location close to the city centre is another key driver.

"It's also good to let business jets operate at commercial airports, such as Don Mueang, so passengers can make easy connections between business jets and commercial flights if needed," Mr Jacob said.

He said business aviation complements Thailand's growth strategy, specifically the Industry 4.0 scheme, which targets sectors such as aerospace, high-value tourism and medical tourism.

Thailand's medical tourism is forecast to generate nearly 49 billion baht this year, representing a year-on-year increase of 4%, according to Kasikorn Research Center.

Business jets can help Thailand with other important aspects of medical tourism: timeliness and convenience.

The country's effort to attract high-net-worth individuals who value their privacy, time and convenience is also a natural fit for business aviation.

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