Taiwanese businessman and energy heir Michael Yao told the Financial Times that he decided to buy a regional airline after failing to entice others into investing for his $8 billion industrial development plans. After striking his first blow with the purchase of the Lian-li Airport on Feb. 13, Yao’s sights are now set on Taiwan’s airports and the country’s main population centers. “This will give me a chance to embark on a new life in aviation,” Yao told the FT.
The deal to purchase Lian-li Airport happened amid a crackdown on Yunnan Airlines (YI), which changed its name and planes while it was in bankruptcy proceedings, and is also widely believed to have skimped on safety upgrades and experienced aircraft accidents. The plan for Yao, whose YI is now in bankruptcy proceedings, is to avoid repeating the mistakes that Yunnan Airlines made. His airline will stick to the frequencies that YI executives currently fly, but will “hire more state-of-the-art airplanes, including Airbus A330neo A350 jets, and retire older aircraft,” according to Reuters. In its purchase, Yao appears to be proving his point about investing in YI’s new aircraft. While he allegedly had a hard time convincing the China Civil Aviation Administration to purchase 20 more Airbus aircraft, the planes are part of the deal and the airline is poised to move onto its eighth Airbus model. According to China Daily, a company official said that the aircraft would bring “Sleek black carrier models, larger suites with business class and a wine cellar.”
To succeed, Yao has so far provided little information about the company’s plans. The FT pointed out that Yao seems to have realized that being first out of the gate isn’t necessarily the best way to succeed. But Yao insisted that he intends to make an impact in the industry. His airline will compete on the island with Taiwanese flag carrier EVA Air and Air China’s Hong Kong subsidiary to include the island’s main population centers: Taipei, Kaohsiung, Hsinchu, and the island’s major cities.