Airbus looks ahead to strong sales of large VIP transports

 - May 17, 2008, 4:42 AM

Airbus recently passed the 100 sales mark with its Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) family and is now achieving breakthrough sales with its new larger VIP transports. The European airframer also has sold its first double-decked A380 “Flying Palace” and clinched a second commitment for the A350XWB Prestige, based on the A350XWB-900 airliner.

Meanwhile, reacting to a serious bottleneck in its ACJ production process, Airbus (Booth No. 7442) has established a dedicated ACJ Center in Toulouse, France, to increase capacity for cabin interior completions. The manufacturer’s record total of 38 firm orders in 2007 comprise 31 ACJs (based on the A319 model) and seven VIP widebodies, including four Airbus A340s, two A330s and the first VIP A380. This compares to 20 ACJs and one VIP widebody ordered in 2006.

The sale of the VIP A380, to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Abdulaziz Al Saud, chairman of Kingdom Holding Company, Saudi Arabia’s largest firm, was announced at the Dubai Air Show last November. The aircraft will be powered by four Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines and will have an NBAA IFR range of 8,200 nm.

The world’s largest airliner offers the ultimate in VIP legroom and for completions experts there is plenty of space in which to get creative. The main deck of the 163.7-foot-long A380 is 21.6 feet wide and the upper deck measures 19.4 feet, providing 5,930 sq ft of floor space.

“This is 50 percent more than that of the largest corporate jet previously available,” said David Velupillai, marketing director for Airbus Executive and Private Aviation, referring to the Boeing 747-400 of which the new A380 customer currently is the only private owner.

The A380 airliner sells for approximately $320 million, with VIP completions responsible for an estimated additional one third of the sales price–a total of almost $410 million. This first example is expected to be delivered in late 2012 or 2013.
Velupillai confirmed that sales in the first quarter of this year include six single-aisle and two A350XWB Prestige jets. Airbus’ first VIP A350XWB sale was to Tony Chan, chairman of Hong Kong-based C Jet, which has also ordered an ACJ. The second A350XWB, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB87 engines and ordered by an unidentified Asian customer, also will be based in Hong Kong. It will be managed by BAA Jet Management as will C Jet’s A350XWB.

In addition to the ACJs and the VIP widebodies, Airbus also offers the A320 Prestige with 4,300-nm range and the A318 Elite with range of 4,200 nm.
The Elite sells for $55 million, including completion by Lufthansa Technik. The jet flies with a pair of Pratt & Whitney PW124 or–as a new option–CFM International CFM56-539/P turbofans. The first 18-passenger Elite, shown here at the EBACE static display, is one of five on order from Zurich, Switzerland-based charter operator Comlux. It has logged more than 1,000 flying hours in the 12 months since delivery in May 2007.