Key Points:

  • GallopAir has signed a $2 billion deal to procure 30 jets from China's COMAC and is set to be the first international buyer of the C919 jet.

  • Aiming for a 2024 launch, the airline is in dialogue with potential investors and seeks partnerships with the Brunei government and local enterprises.

  • With the goal of serving budget-conscious travelers, GallopAir will initially focus on short-haul flights before expanding its network.

GallopAir Sets Eyes on Turning Brunei into a Regional Aviation Hub

BEIJING — Brunei is poised to bolster its aviation presence with the introduction of GallopAir, a newly-formed airline that has ambitious plans to commence operations in 2024. The airline's Chief Executive, Cham Chi, in a recent communication with Reuters, shared that they are on course to receive their maiden Chinese-manufactured aircraft in the latter half of next year.

In a significant move last month, GallopAir penned a deal worth $2 billion with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) to purchase 30 regional and narrow-body jets. This acquisition marks the airline as the pioneer carrier outside China to opt for COMAC's much-touted narrow-body C919 aircraft.

Cham Chi highlighted that dialogues are underway with numerous potential investors. Additionally, the airline, under the aegis of Chinese entrepreneur Yang Qiang, is keen to forge alliances and attract investments from the Bruneian government and its domestic businesses.

Regarding the phased delivery of the 30 aircraft, Chi mentioned it would be contingent upon factors like regulatory clearances, the production timeline of COMAC, and GallopAir's operational preparedness. "We're keenly focusing on acquiring certification for the ARJ21 aircraft since it aligns perfectly with our initial operational objectives and the target market segment," Chi elaborated.

GallopAir's strategy involves initially launching short-haul flights, subsequently branching out to medium-haul journeys that will encompass regions like Southeast Asia, North Asia, and the Southwest Pacific.

Even though Brunei isn't renowned as a prominent tourist hotspot, the leadership at GallopAir envisions transforming the nation into a key aviation nucleus in the region.

Incorporated earlier this year, GallopAir's ownership rests with Yang Qiang, who also helms China's Shaanxi Tianju Group, via a Singaporean entity. The decision to procure aircraft from COMAC can be attributed in part to this Chinese linkage, Chi mentioned.

Upon commencement, GallopAir will accompany Royal Brunei Airlines, the country's flagship carrier, in serving the skies. Chi hinted at the interest shown by certain financiers and banking institutions in funding the COMAC deal but refrained from diving into specifics.

Before embarking on operations, the airline faces the procedural requirement of securing a safety and airworthiness certificate for its COMAC fleet from the Brunei Department of Civil Aviation.