Airbus Corporate Jets doesn’t do small business jets. The entry level into the ACJ world is the ACJ318, based on the 100-plus-seat A318 airliner. The top end of the range reaches right up to the ACJ380 based on the world’s largest commercial aircraft. And such aircraft do not come cheap, especially when outfitted to a luxurious standard. According to the annual Buyer’s Guide produced by AIN sister publication Business Jet Traveler, even the popular single-aisle ACJ319 will set you back around $87 million.
At this end of the market there are three principal groups of customers: large corporations who typically use the aircraft for business-class transport of executives, often on shuttle-type operations; governments who use the aircraft for heads-of-state and their entourages; and ultra-rich individuals. As the number of billionaires in the world grows at a significant rate, Airbus Corporate Jets sees the latter as an increasingly important marketplace for its products.
To back up its assessment, ACJ commissioned Ledbury Research to look into the buying habits and numbers of the world’s billionaires. The numbers are growing, but at different rates in different regions. The U.S. led the way in 2012 with 940 billionaires, yet that figure is projected to grow to only 1,070 by 2017. However, in China, the 2012 number of 470 is forecast to more than double to 1,040 by 2017.
Russia also shows a healthy projected growth, as does Latin America, which is scheduled to rise from 320 billionaires in 2012 to 580 by 2017. Brazil accounts for 190 and 240 of those numbers, respectively.
In terms of buying habits, the world’s billionaires are looking toward ever larger aircraft, not only as an expression of wealth, but also as a means of taking their lifestyle into the air. That often means bringing their entourages with them on trips.
Aircraft in the ACJ range not only offer the internal cabin height and width to allow comfortable inflight living space, but also sufficient capacity to not only accommodate both the billionaire in his or her accustomed comfort, but also their staff. Underlining the fact that “size matters” a survey by Business Jet Traveler showed that range and cabin size were the most important considerations when choosing an aircraft, while speed, economy and other factors were of secondary importance.