January 18, 2017

Growing business opportunities throughout Asia mean that more operators than ever are flying to the region, but unforeseen challenges may complicate matters for crews making their first trips to the area.

Julie Ambrose, aviation director for The ASA Group and based in Bangkok, Thailand, said the biggest surprise for most first-time operators is the high cost. “Above all, most operators don’t understand how expensive it is [to operate] throughout southeast Asia,” she said. “Fuel is actually pretty cheap compared to some locations, but the overflight, landing, and royalty fees quickly add up.”

Ground handling charges are another factor, as general aviation support infrastructure remains relatively scarce. “Hangars are few and far between, and slots and parking space are restricted,” she added. “Here in Bangkok, business aircraft may land at Suvarnabhumi Airport only if the passengers have connecting [airline] flights from the airport.”

Authorities in the region are also less responsive to sudden trip changes or diversions, with overflight and landing permits typically requiring a few days to secure. Failure to do so may carry rather drastic consequences.

“I’m aware of one pilot who was ‘nicely met’ by military aircraft when he inadvertently flew over Indonesian airspace without permission,” Ambrose recalled. “He was detained for a few days until the situation was resolved.”

To avoid such pitfalls, Ambrose recommended prior coordination with a trip handler with expertise in the region to ensure that every aspect of the trip is covered, from overflight permits and prior permission requested services, to making sure that fuel and catering services will be available promptly upon arrival.

An education session titled “Operating in Asia: Opportunities & Difficulties” will take place at the 2017 NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC2017), Feb. 8 at the Fort Worth (TX) Convention Center.