US billionaires powering recovery in global private jet market, Airbus says

European plane maker 'well-positioned' to capitalise on growing large and ultra-long-range business jets market with its recently launched ACJ TwoTwenty

The ACJ Two Twenty jet. The plane is certified to fly with a 50 per cent blend of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. Photo: Airbus
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More than one-third of the world’s wealthiest 500 billionaires are based in the US, where the ultra-rich globetrotters are helping to boost the recovery of the private jet market in the country and globally, according to Airbus.

Airbus Corporate Jets' analysis of industry data shows that 35 per cent of the world’s 500 wealthiest billionaires built their fortunes in the US, holding 43 per cent of the group’s total wealth, it said.

The 177 US-based billionaires that make up some of the 500 most affluent in the world are worth $3.38 trillion compared with $7.72trn for the group. The average wealth of US billionaires is around $18.91 billion, which is 40 per cent higher — or $5.37bn — than the average wealth of a non-US billionaire in the top 500 at $13.54bn.

"The number of billionaires in the US is a factor in the strength of the recovery in the global business aviation market, particularly in the US, where departures and the use of private jets are increasing,” Sean McGeough, vice president of commercial at ACJ for North America, said.

For the whole of August, business jet activity in North America is trending up one per cent compared to August last year and up 13 per cent compared to August 2019, according to the latest figures from aviation research consultancy WingX.

For the year so far, the overall region of North America has notched up record flight activity, with almost 2 million business jet flights flown, up 18 per cent on last year, which by August 2021 had caught up with 2019, it said.

The US has a 23 per cent gain on the first half of 2019, with both Canada and Mexico still trailing pre-pandemic activity. Destinations like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and US Virgin Islands increased at least 30 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic period of January to August 2019.

Across the whole region, Bombardier's Challenger 350 is the busiest jet this year, 17 per cent busier than pre-pandemic levels.

Seven of the 10 wealthiest individuals in the world are based in the US, where the business aviation market is experiencing a "solid" recovery, ACJ said.

"We are well positioned to capitalise on growth in the large and ultra-long-range business aviation market – especially with our recent launch of the ACJ TwoTwenty," Mr McGeough said.

The ACJ TwoTwenty, a corporate jet version of Airbus' A220 aircraft, has created a new market segment that the company dubs the "Xtra Large Bizjet", according to Mr McGeough.

"The ACJ TwoTwenty gives companies a real competitive advantage in attracting executives requiring their own space, which is particularly important given the growing role of senior executives in the global workforce."

The first ACJ Two Twenty jet is expected to enter service with its owner, Dubai-based Five Hotels and Resorts, early next year, according to the ACJ website.

More than 210 Airbus corporate jets are in service worldwide, flying on every continent, the plane maker said.

US billionaires are most likely to have earned their money in technology, accounting for 21 per cent of the US billionaires in the top 500 globally, followed by finance at 19 per cent, according to the ACJ analysis. Energy, retail, media and telecoms, and consumer goods were among the top sectors.

The US economy shrank 0.6 per cent in the second quarter of the year, a more moderate pace than initially thought but still marking a second straight quarter of negative growth.

Inflation in the world's largest economy is at a four-decade high and the Federal Reserve's aggressive actions to curtail it raise the risk of an eventual recession.

The US's economy is forecast to expand 2.3 per cent instead of a previous 3.7 per cent estimate and down from 5.7 per cent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. It's projected to grow one per cent in 2023.

Updated: September 04, 2022, 7:27 AM