The new status symbol for China's ultra rich businessmen: a private jet.
But before this fad can truly take off, authorities have to loosen up strict regulations governing the domestic airspace.
By Yang Jian and Zha Minjie
JIABEI Yanzi, a coal mine boss from northern China, glimpsed a light Piaggio private jetand soon moved her eyes onto the nearby Boeing 737-700 business jet that was farbigger and cost more than US$30 million.
"I'd like to buy this one, as the first one is too small for me," said Jiabei, vice chairmanof the Yulong Group in Shuozhou, a city in coal-rich Shanxi Province. She was amongthe first group of visitors to the inaugural Asia Business Aviation Conference andExhibition that started yesterday at Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport.
Ten business jets were sold yesterday, mainly between jet manufacturers andcorporate buyers on the first day of the exhibition.
There were a few rich businesspeople, including bosses working in energy and real estate like Jiabei, whowere also among the first batch of buyers.
"The traffic in Shanxi is too inconvenient, so I will buy a plane as a traffic tool," saidJiabei.
More than 150 exhibitors and about 5,000 to 6,000 visitors, including leadingmanufacturers, financiers, businesspeople and government officials, are expected atthe three-day exhibition.
Jiabei brought along 20 bosses in the energy and real estate fields, who said theyplanned to buy at least 10 planes.
"Most of us plan to buy private planes, mainly for personal use," said one of the bosseswho declined to be named.
Queues were common in the afternoon as the 30 planes, each costing more than 200million yuan, were on display and potential buyers peered inside.
"More than 20 customers have come to ask for information about the planes, with halfexpressing their buying interest," said Tian Jun, chief representative of Avion PacificLimited, a business jet sales company.
The manufacturer Gulfstream and private jet-leasing companies including Asian SkyGroup and Vistajet also signed purchase contracts.