Airbus has started market research focused on the needs and preferences of the world’s growing population of billionaires. Announcing the project in Moscow on September 9, Airbus Corporate Jets marketing director David Velupillai said that the investigation should be completed by October, with the results to be made public in a report during the following month. The study is intended to look beyond purely aircraft and travel, and will try to collect a broad array of data on billionaire’s lifestyles, habits and hobbies.
The European airframer is conducting interviews with rich people themselves, as well as gathering information from those close to them. The report should present a comprehensive picture of the high-net-worth lifestyle that could be of great value to service providers such as charter operators, aircraft interior designers and makers of in-flight entertainment systems.
Preliminary studies have revealed that Russia is home to one of the biggest concentrations of billionaires outside North America. Other significant concentrations of personal wealth are now to be found in the Middle East and China, and much of the Airbus-led research will focus on these regions. “For three years now the market has been challenging for everybody,” Velupillai told journalists at a press briefing in Moscow on Monday.
Last year’s ACJ family deliveries counted a widebody (i.e. VIP versions of the A330/340 airliners) and eight narrowbodies, including the first-ever ACJ321 “green” airframe (which is now undergoing cabin interior installation).
The market for very large VIP jets is still recovering from the world crisis. Lengthy waiting times are things of the past now and delivery slots for green ACJ aircraft are available as early as late 2014. “Buyers are no longer prepared to wait for three to five years,” said Velupillai. “That’s why the A350 is not selling to business aircraft owners. But the A330 continues to sell.” For the same reason (i.e. strong demand in the airline market), Airbus has yet to sell its first ACJ powered by CFM International’s Leap engines.
Velupillai also reported that the new sharklet winglets, said to improve fuel efficiency on an ACJ by up to 4 percent, are now available as an option on the ACJ318 Enhanced. Airbus has long hesitated about fitting the sharklets to the A318 since this model has not been selling as strongly as the larger A319/320/321 family members. “The sharklets do not only improve the fuel performance, but also make the aircraft look sexy,” Velupillai said.
Although the sales campaign is active, firm orders for the sharklet-equipped ACJ318 have yet to be formalized. Other news about the ACJ318 Enhanced includes a new location for its shower and a dome-like ceiling being offered as standard equipment, and the inclusion of the high-definition TV sets, CCC Skyshow and touch-screen personal controls for all cabin systems.
At the JetExpo show this week at Moscow’s Vnukovo-3 Airport, Airbus is displaying an ACJ319 aircraft operated by Austria’s Tyrolean Jet Services. The company is active in the Russian private charter market.