Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Et-china.com has become the first online travel service provider in China to offer business aircraft charter, following its tie-up with Hainan Airlines subsidiary Deer Jet.

The internet service provider, which is owned and operated jointly by Australia's e-commerce investment company Et-china. com Investments and China Southern Airlines, was set up last year to offer online airline travel bookings, ticketing, travel and hotel reservations for China's largest passenger carrier.

Matthew Ng, chief executive of the Guangzhou-based company, says: "We are dominating the online airline travel market in southern China and it is our intention to make inroads into the business aircraft charter market by enabling customers to charter business aircraft online and schedule their journey around their work and leisure activities."

Et-china.com canvassed the views of China Southern Airlines passengers and found that 70% of respondents travelled for business purposes. Ng adds: "We realised that there is enormous potential for business aircraft travel, particularly from high net worth individuals, businessmen and multinational companies, with a need to travel within southern China and the Asia Pacific region."

Deer Jet, believed to be the only company offering commercial business jet charter services in China, operates three aircraft - a Bombardier Learjet 60, a Raytheon Beechjet 400A and a Hawker 800XP - from its Beijing Capital International Airport base, as well as a Bell 206 helicopter, based on the island of Hainan.

"The business aircraft market in China is gradually opening up and, given the size of the population, the infrastructure of the country and the speed at which the internet is growing in the region, the potential for business aircraft travel is unlimited," says Et-china.com.

Source: Flight International