VistaJet is now the first international private jet operator that lets clients book flights on WeChat. The company hopes its newly launched service on the mobile platform can replace the convenience of owning or renting a private plane by allowing affluent Chinese consumers to charter a private jet virtually in an instant.
“For Chinese customers who require guaranteed aircraft availability 365 days a year, WeChat could genuinely become an alternative to ownership—merely instant message our team, and we’ll organize the rest, to your own specific taste.” Vista Jet founder and chairman Thomas Flohr said in a statement.
The launch comes amid the rapid expansion of VistaJet’s business in the Great China region in 2016, where the number of Chinese clients now makes up 17 percent of their current global customer base. Heading into the year of 2017, the company’s growth has continued in the first quarter, when sales of flight hours doubled compared to the same period the year before.
Flohr said VistaJet intends to use the WeChat service to continue this expansion by reaching out to China’s digitally active consumers and simplify the way they charter a private jet. The WeChat platform will provide clients 24/7 customer service. “Launching a WeChat service is a huge opportunity to allow people to talk to our team—anytime, anywhere—and enable us to provide Chinese customers with the best experience in the industry,” he said.
Offline, the company offers a tailor-made onboard experience for passengers, including an authentic Chinese tea service, Mandarin- and Cantonese-speaking cabin staff, and dining ordering privileges from passengers’ preferred restaurants and hotels.
China represents a promising market for private jet operators across the world. The latest Hurun Global Rich List shows that the size of China’s ultra-rich population has swelled to be even bigger than that of the United States, accounting for nearly one-third of the billionaires who made the list. Nevertheless, the number of private jets in China is still lagging far behind its American counterpart, though the detailed estimation varies according to different institutions, partly thanks to China’s aviation regulations.
There are a number of other factors curbing growth though. Both the sales and charter sectors of the private jet market have been hit hard by China’s economic slowdown and President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft campaign. In the meanwhile, domestic rivals such as HNA Group’s Deer Jet have begun to create more competition for international players.
As the competition escalates in China, VistaJet is using WeChat to expand its charter market, targeting affluent consumers who haven’t committed to plane ownership—“40 percent of VistaJet’s new business came from customers moving away from fractional or full aircraft ownership, and we are now seeing this reflected in China,” Flohr continued in the statement.
The adoption of WeChat in a global aviation business has once again proved the importance of China’s mobile messaging app for luxury brands doing business with Chinese consumers. VistaJet’s WeChat strategy in China also starkly contrasts private jet booking habits in the West, where clients typically book flights via email, the phone, and online.