By Frédéric Vergnères
Copyright : Matthieu Douhaire
The Chinese operator Deer Jet decided to export its expertise beyond the borders of the Middle Kingdom. To do so, the deer emblem airline will operate a Boeing 787 in VIP configuration. Aside from the fact that this is the first aircraft of this type being operated in the world, the arrival of the Boeing newcomer within Deer Jet solidifies above all its huge ambitions for the business aviation market, not just in Asia but especially in the Middle East and Europe.
After a first trip on the Dreamliner flying its executives between two of China’s major cities Hong Kong and Shanghai, Deer Jet set out to conquer new markets by presenting the aircraft successively in London, Dublin, Doha, Seattle, Marrakesh and in late June Paris. This extraordinary odyssey, almost unheard of from a business aviation operator was carefully prepared and developed through a series of presentations entitled “Dreams encounter the World” and inspired by the company’s philosophy “Making travel an Art”. A program that reflects the desire of this airline, a subsidiary of one of the largest Chinese groups, HNA, specialized in aviation (21 airlines, including Air China, Hainan Airlines, Swissport, etc.) and in the luxury hotel industry, to succeed in expanding its activity throughout the international market.
HNA, A LITTLE KNOWN GIANT
Little known in our latitudes, Deer Jet nevertheless is a major player. The airline, which is currently headquartered in Beijing, has a fleet of 90 aircraft, 30 of which it owns. Deer Jet has historically centered its offer on the Chinese market by focusing on the expertise of the Group’s 22 years in the country. The expansion of business aviation in China has in recent decades given wings to the operator. However, Deer Jet which has chosen to maintain a fleet composed exclusively of Gulfstream or Boeing BBJ for cost efficiency, is also active on the aircraft management market in China. The airline therefore manages a fleet of Falcon and Airbus ACJ on behalf of owners. In all, Deer Jet has “a little over 300 clients, half of which, over the past two years, are outside of the Chinese market,” states Frank Fang, Vice President of DeerJet. With these strong figures and in light of its growth strategy, the HNA group which has eight business terminals in China, in December 2016 acquired UAS, a ground support and service company. UAS has 23 bases across Asia, Africa, India as well as the Middle East. This acquisition will enable the group to further expand its international footprint by 2020, especially towards Europe and the United States.
AN INTERIOR WITH A FRENCH TOUCH
As previously mentioned, the arrival of the Boeing 787BBJ is particularly strategic for the Chinese consortium. The twinjet, that is operated on behalf of the HNA group is, according to Frank Fang, “a showcase on the international level to promote the Deer Jet brand throughout the world”. Regarding the reason for such an acquisition by the Chinese operator, the director states “the 787 was favored over Airbus’ A3520 firstly due to the different schedules for entry into service of the two aircraft, but also for reasons related to operating costs and flight range”.
The aircraft received by the airline in 2014 underwent an additional two and a half years of completion work at the GreenPoint Technologies facilities. The aircraft interior intended for the charter flight market was entirely designed by French designer Jacques Pierrejean, whose offices are located in Paris. The French designer was selected over his competitors for his vision “of luxury as it epitomizes what is typically French,” states Frank Fang. Jacques Pierrejean was therefore inspired by Asian undertones while creating sleek European style. The design includes a large entryway at the front used to access the lounge or the master bedroom. The bedroom includes a bathroom with a shower and dressing table. To the right of the entryway is a large piece of furniture topped with a gong, a longstanding symbol of Asian excellence, that passengers go around to access an immense lounge area divided into three zones. Past two stunning removable tables, a second section for the main passengers is separated from the last section for other people in a business-class type configuration.
CHINA: A MAJOR PLAYER IN GLOBAL BUSINESS AVIATION
The interior is carefully designed to meet a broad variety of needs and tastes. As per the initial request of the Deer Jet executives who, following the world tour presentation of the Dreamliner, will operate the twinjet in the charter market. According to Mr Fang, “our 787 which is based in Hong Kong corresponds to a market sector that we need to be more involved in. The business aviation market is in full growth in China, but this type of aircraft is not proportionate to this style of market in the country. This is why we want to export our expertise with this aircraft, particularly to Europe.” In this respect, the vice president also indicated that Deer Jet was “awaiting a second Boeing 787 in 2018 also to be used for the charter market”. On a mission to conquer the skies of new continents, Deer Jet expects to position itself as a key player in the business aviation sector in Europe and the United States. Frank Fang explains: “We are looking into acquiring new FBOs as well as new operators, not only in Europe but also in the United States.” While the arrival of the Middle Kingdom into West is already a reality, especially through Luxaviation and one of its main partners, Mischeng Financial, the arrival of a new player such as HNA in Europe and the United States may bring an entirely new dimension to the sector in the coming decade and give the Middle Kingdom the keys to a fabulous market, possibly to the detriment of local competitors. We’ll have to wait and see.