Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BJETS delays aircraft deliveries as economic crisis bites

Asian fractional ownership firm BJETS has asked manufacturers to slow the delivery of the business aircraft it has on order due to the ongoing economic crisis.

The company, which is backed by USA-based investment firm Briley Group and Indian Hotels, operator of the Taj brand of luxury hotels in India and part of the Tata Group conglomerate, ordered 20 Cessna Citation CJ2+s, nine Hawker 850XPs, 11Hawker 900XPs, and 10Hawker 4000s last year. It had planned to take delivery of all the aircraft within five years.

However, it had only five aircraft in its fleet at the end of 2008, down from the seven it envisaged, says chief executive Mark Baier. BJETS will have 11-12 aircraft by the end of 2009, below the 15 it originally targeted. Several will be managed aircraft, he adds.

"Clearly, it is a smaller business than what we envisioned a year ago. But that is expected given the economic climate and tight credit situation," says Baier. "We began to talk to the manufacturers about delaying deliveries just before the stock markets crashed and as demand faltered. That was a good move as we can now manage the delivery schedules better."

The company, which places jets in Singapore for the South-East Asian market and Mumbai in India for south Asia, has attracted some fractions since it began operations last September. While its block charter and traditional charter businesses are slowly growing as well, BJETS is also moving into the aircraft management business.

"We did not expect so many owners to turn to us for quality management services. We will begin to manage several aircraft this year," says Baier. "The charter business is holding up. Some companies and top executives are shelving or delaying plans to buy business jets, but they still keen to on the idea and so turn their interest to the charter market."

BJETS is also trying to offer value added services. In India, for example, it has an agreement with helicopter operator Global Vectra Helicorp - which has seven helicopters available for charter - to provide access to destinations in the country without a landing strip.

"This association will strengthen our product offering in terms of accessing more destinations that do not have a landing strip but offer a helipad. While BJETS can access over 120 airstrips in India already, our partnership with Global Vectra will enable our customers to fly to all those destinations that cannot be reached by other aircraft," says Baier.

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