Airbus has again brought the largest aircraft to the annual JetExpo show at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, an Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) based on the A320 airliner family. David Velupillai, director for marketing, for Airbus Corporate Jets, said, “Each time [we exhibit at JetExpo] we want to show a particular cabin layout to our local customers.” In 2013 Airbus displayed a Tyrolean; in 2012 an Acropolis; and in 2011 a Comlux. Airbus also promotes the specially developed Phoenix interior concept in Russia – with a big circular table and red and gold colors – even though red is no longer the most favorite color in this country.
To date, Airbus has sold more than 170 ACJs to a roughly equal mix of customers: governments, corporations and individuals. Last year the manufacturer delivered six ACJs. It expects to sell 10 this year. Some 15 charter companies offer ACJs for a VVIP service, so, “there are a reasonable number of aircraft for us to hire [for an airshow demonstrator],” Velupillai said.
How an aircraft is selected for demonstration at a particular airshow? “It is always a deal with one of the operators. They share our interest in promoting the cabin. The difference is that we sell aircraft, and they sell hours in the aircraft. But showing a [particular] cabin to potential customers is good for both of us.”
Velupillai addressed EU sanctions against Russia, and whether they have changed the way of Airbus does business, and whether it affects appearances at shows such as JetExpo. “We are a manufacturer,” he said, “Airbus has a client base of private and corporate aircraft owners in Russia, and imports titanium from VSMPO. Naturally, we are looking to continue normal business relationships with the aircraft operators and the industry.
“We go to a lot of business aviation shows round the world to show our aircraft and highlight the cabin. At an airshow, customers can see [jets of all sizes] and make their choice. We like the ability to show ACJ to Russian customers at JetExpo.”
Airbus Corporate Jets sponsored a recent study on the habits and preferences of billionaires by UK-based Ledbury Research. The study shows that Russian and Chinese billionaires have some common traits, and in some ways they are closer than their counterparts in the U.S. and Middle East. In all, there are 2,500 billionaires in the four geographic regions. By the numbers, Russia’s ultra-rich have outpaced the Middle East, and the Chinese are bypassing the U.S.
The researchers took a close look at 250 billionaires, with input from people within their circles and from 25 suppliers of luxury goods and services. Airbus shared some of the findings with the Russian aviation community just before JetExpo at Business Aviation Forum 2014, which was organized by ATO events.
Chinese and Russian billionaires tend to be the same age, averaging 50 and 49 years old respectively. That compares with their counterparts in the U.S. (average age of 66) and the Middle East (61). The Chinese and Russians are not only younger, but their fortunes tend to be self-made, as opposed to inherited wealth from parents or relatives. They spend more and show their wealth, while the Americans and Arabs are more likely to stay discreet. They also show a greater interest in passing their wealth on to the next generation. “Russian and Chinese billionaires are more interested in spending, and this is reflected in the aircraft they buy or charter,” Velupillai said. “Airplanes add wings to their lifestyle.”
Chinese and Russian VVIPs tend to travel relatively short distances, less-than-four-hour flights, often inside their home countries – unlike the average for Middle Easterners and Americans.. As for foreign destinations, Russians most often fly to Europe and the Mediterranean Coast, while the Chinese go to Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao. Long-haul flights are rare for them. “They do not travel much to the United States, yet the Russians sometimes visit the Caribbean,” Velupillai said.