Luxury on a pair of wings
Updated: 2012-04-27 08:49
By Yao Jing (China Daily European Edition)
Private jet owners can choose a customized design for the bedroom of their aircraft. Provided to China Daily
As sales of private jets increase in China, interior design companies are looking to cash in
From bedrooms fit for a prince, to jacuzzis, bars, small theaters, stereo systems and hookups for iPads, interior designs for private jets are taking off in China.
As sales of private jets grow in an emerging market, a small group of interior design companies are beginning to reel in more and more Chinese buyers. Both international companies such as Talcao Aviation and Aeria Luxury Interiors, both based in the United States, Italian company Delta Interior Design as well as local companies are meeting the demands from private jet owners to customize their jets.
At the recent Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition in Shanghai, Guo Lihui, section manager of Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Corp, a Beijing-based company providing maintenance, repair, and components installation for aircraft, wandered the halls trying to find interior design providers.
"We don't have fixed partners in terms of interior design. I am finding some middle-end and luxury products to cater to our different customers," Guo says. "We are intending to choose providers from the United States and Europe as they have a long history with aircraft interiors and modifications," Guo says.
Guo then went up to Yong Keng Kum, director of business development of Talcao Aviation, and inquired about custom carpets.
"If we give you a decorative pattern, could you make a special carpet with your material for us?" Guo asked Yong as the manager held up a carpet sample made of silk.
Talcao established a branch company in Hong Kong last year as the number of orders from the coastal city doubled last year compared with the previous year (although Yong would not disclose how many orders were placed). In less than one year, Yong says, the company has worked for more than 10 Chinese clients, mainly providing custom carpets and leather seating.
The small number of affluent Chinese, much as they do with their cars, is splashing on individualizing their jets. Although most private jet owners are new to owning an aircraft, design and quality are both important elements for them. Interior design companies can handcraft nearly anything in a jet and they also offer clients a range of paints, fabric and designs tailored to a customer's taste and style. From his experience, customers do not change the engine, power generators and avionics of a jet, but they tend to redecorate the interior every three years, Yong says.
Refurbishing a plane, however, comes at steep prices.
It costs more than $30,000 (22,745 euros) to install a new carpet for a large-cabin in a Gulfstream G550.
At the Shanghai trade show, Matteo Bulletti, an engineer for Delta Interior Design, was talking up the company to visitors to secure contracts from Chinese customers.
"We don't have a branch in China, but we have an agent (in Shanghai) supporting us," Bulletti says.
He says the company has three designers becoming more familiar with the Chinese culture to meet the demands from Chinese customers but that Delta Interior Design is not investing a great deal in China and simply testing uncharted waters.
Some Chinese companies are coming to him, he says, in the hope of establishing a joint venture in China. Bulletti says the company is still waiting for the right time to seal a deal.
"The best way for those newly ambitious companies is working with an agent or establish an office in China. They receive orders in China, and then complete the project at their home base," says Gui Yue, executive director of the Chinese office of Bizjet Advisor, a British publication that offers guides for governments, individual owners and companies in the aviation industry.
Singapore Technologies Aerospace, a division of US-based ST Engineering, unveiled a new brand called Aeria Luxury Interiors in February. It is a part of its global branding program for refurbishing and designing jets, offering high-quality interiors.
Aeria is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, and is converting one of its hangars into an installation center. The facility, which should be ready by May 1, will include shops for cabinetry, upholstery and electrical work.
"We have already provided several quotations (for cabin outfitting projects) and have been shortlisted on two projects," says Aeria's completions general manager Ron Soret. The new hangar will be able to house aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 747-400.
"We are focusing on the VIP completion and refurbishment for Boeing and Airbus airframes," says Cai Huiyin, senior executive corporate communications of the company.
She says the company is completing everything from the design, manufacturing to installations in the US. ST Engineering has had a history of doing business in China, Cai says, making ST Aerospace's job of becoming more familiar with the Chinese market an easier one. It also has several designers especially for Chinese customers.