Abu Dhabi-based Al Jaber Aviation (AJA), which has four Airbus A318 Elites and two ACJs on order, last week announced plans to start VVIP charter services in the Middle East. The Al Jaber Group, one of Abu Dhabi’s largest diversified companies, formed AJA in 2008 aiming to enter the $1 billion sector, which has 25 percent year-on-year growth, according to Dr. Mark Pierotti, AJA’s chief operating officer.
“Since June 1 this year AJA has been operating two Embraer Legacy 600s,” Pierotti said at a pre-airshow press conference. “This has allowed us to break into the market and we have many repeat customers. We have an aggressive five-year strategy and will accept our first large-cabin Airbus [an A318 Elite] on December 9, when it will go to Lufthansa Technik for outfitting.” The aircraft is due to enter service next June, he added.
Pierotti said AJA has a total of 21 aircraft still on order and to be delivered, including five Embraer Lineage 1000s, eight Legacy 500s/450s and the six Airbus Corporate Jetliners. The first Lineage is scheduled to be delivered in September 2010, then “in early 2011” the charter firm is to take delivery of its second A318 Elite from Airbus and the second Lineage from Embraer.
“AJA is the biggest single customer in the region for the ACJ and will be the first to operate VVIP charters in the region,” said Airbus executive and private aviation v-p
product marketing, David Velupillai. “VVIP charters represent an important market for us and operators can achieve a rate of 100 hours a month. The ACJ is designed to fly 3,000 hours a year.”
Francois Chazelle, Airbus v-p for executive and private aviation, said there currently are five Airbus VIP charter operators in Europe, three in China and six in the Middle East, where it has nine aircraft available.
AJA’s plans are ambitious and include aircraft management, chartering its own aircraft and the establishment of a maintenance operation. “We are going to build an MRO operation with Air France KLM. It is a key part of the business plan,” said Pierotti. “The first check is due on the first Lineage aircraft in two years, so we will start to build a hangar in the new year. We have construction plans and quotes.”
He declined to commit on whether or not the location would be at AJA’s Al Bateen Airport base, saying, “The location is to be announced.” He did suggest, however, that the company may perform interior completions of VIP aircraft.
Chazelle told AIN there is a need for more completions capacity worldwide “as we sell bigger and bigger aircraft that eat up the completions capacity.” There are currently only five approved cabin outfitters for the ACJ family.
ACJ Rides High During Downturn
Airbus is celebrating its successful strategy for its Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) family, which comprises the A318 Elite, ACJ and A320 Prestige, as well as VIP versions of its A318, A319 and A320 airliners. The family now makes up more than 100 of some 160 orders for all Airbus VIP models, including the Prestige models of the A330, A340, A350 and A380, with capacities ranging from 14 to 100 passengers.
Airbus’s decision to launch the A318 Elite in October 2005 as the “entry-level jet” in the ACJ family has paid off, said Francois Chazelle, Airbus v-p, executive and private aviation. The company now has more than 25 orders for the model, with the tenth aircraft delivered last month (six have gone to Middle East customers, two to Europeans and two to Chinese). Chazelle was particularly pleased that customers are showing early interest in upgrading to the larger Airbus VIP jets.
The A380 Prestige is the ultimate in corporate jets, he boasted. To date, one has been ordered–by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia. Chazelle said five A340 VIP aircraft–a mix of -500s and -600s–are currently being outfitted and that Airbus sold eight A350 Prestiges in the past year, including six to customers in the Middle East.