Myanmar opening spurs private jet growth
Private jet traffic in Thailand has been one of the fastest-growing niche industries in the country over the past couple of years, much of it apparently spurred by the recent opening of Myanmar to the outside world.
As Myanmar has opened its trade doors, and sanctions in many areas have been lifted, Western investors and corporate executives have been keen to take an early advantage to set up appointments and meet with government officials and civil servants in he country.
The problem is that travel within Myanmar is extremely limited, especially to the purpose-built capital Nap Pyi Daw. There are no direct international flights into the capital and it’s a five-hour trip by road from Yangon, the old capital. Even Yangon is not easy to get into since standard commercial airline services are not yet up to the speed with which the country appears to be opening.
According to Mjets, currently Thailand’s biggest provider of chartered private jets and the main ground handler for executive jets, their business reached 1,350 flights in the January-July period, an average of 225 per month. This was up from 849 in the same period in 2012. This increase dovetails with the opening of Myanmar, but it also reflects a natural growth in the private and executive jet industry within Thailand and Southeast Asia in general.
Mjets handles about 80 percent of the private jet business in Thailand, so whatever numbers they’re doing is a good barometer for the industry as a whole.
The chairman of Mjets, Jaiyavat Navaraj has offered a couple of reasons for the growth in this very expensive niche industry. First, is simply greater international awareness of the fact the Don Muang International Airport is a quality facility with aeronautical services dedicated to private jets, and, of course, is geographically well-placed in terms of servicing the rest of mainland Southeast Asia.
Second, there are more Thai billionaires who are purchasing private jets or chartering them through Mjets and a lot of elite travellers are opting to fly privately.
Mr Jaiyavat said there are a number of corporate leaders who will come into Bangkok from the West and then take a private jet into Nap Pyi Daw or Yangon to conduct business. Since air facilities in both these places are poor, it makes long-term economic sense for these business people to hire a private jet.
The only downside to the growth of the industry at present is Thai bureaucracy. Mr Jaiyavat would like the government to grant a permit to allow multiple international private jet flights through Thailand. At present permits are only issued on a single flight basis time by time.