Airbus vies to capture 60% of Middle East’s corporate jet market

The plane maker expects fleet renewals to drive demand for its corporate jet division

FILE - In this Thursday, July 9, 2020 file photo, the logo of Airbus group is displayed in Toulouse, south of France. Struggling planemaker Airbus says new European virus lockdown measures are making its life “a bit more difficult." It announced 1 billion euros ($1.16 billion) in COVID-related losses for the third quarter Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020 amid a slower-than-expected recovery in air travel. (AP Photo/Manuel Blondeau, file)
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Plane maker Airbus aims to capture 60 per cent of the Middle East’s corporate jet market following the launch of its latest ACJ TwoTwenty business jet liner, as the bulk of region’s fleet is primed for renewal or replacement.

"We currently have more than 50 per cent market share in the region, but with this new jet we are probably looking to get 60 per cent share in the bizliner market," Benoit Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets, told The National.

An ageing fleet in the Middle East could also provide a much needed boost for Airbus, according to the executive.

“One third of Airbus Corporate Jets flying around the world are in the Middle East. It is an ageing fleet. There will be many replacements because the fleet needs to be renewed … [and this is] a huge opportunity," he said.

The average age of the fleet in the region is 15 years, Mr Defforge said.

“If you look at the average age of the fleet in the region, and the volume of the fleet in the region, the product [ACJ TwoTwenty] is matching perfectly."

For an ultra-long range business jet, "it has a very attractive price”, he added.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to account for the majority of fleet renewals in the coming years, Mr Defforge said.

The Middle East, which is home to about 60 of more than 200 Airbus corporate jets currently in service worldwide, is also a key market for Airbus, which has been struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic – one of the worst events to rattle the aviation industry in decades.

The Toulouse-based plane maker reported a €2.7 billion loss for the first nine months of the year as revenue fell by 35 per cent year-on-year to €30.2bn.

However, the private jet market has offered a glimmer of hope for the industry as wealthier travellers charter jets instead of taking commercial flights.

“Recovery is higher for business aviation than the airline industry. Using a private jet has become convenient because you know who is using the plane,” said Mr Defforge.

Airbus is hoping to capitalise on this demand with the ACJ TwoTwenty, which was launched last month. The aircraft can fly for up to 10,500 kilometres, connecting travellers between major cities such as London and Los Angeles or Tokyo and Dubai – meeting a demand for business jets that have both range and space, Mr Defforge said.

The aircraft's cabin has 785 square feet of floor space, split over six living areas, with capacity for 18 travellers.

Airbus has netted about six orders for the jet so far and said the aircraft's cost of operation is 30 per cent lower than similar models.

“We were playing in the bizliner market until ACJ TwoTwenty, which was quite a niche market of just 400 aircraft globally. Now with a bizjet market where you're talking about ultra-long range, we're talking about five times the size – 2,200 aircraft,” Stan Shparberg, ACJ's head of commercial and marketing, said.

ACJ TwoTwenty is expected to enter operations by 2023.