June 29, 2022

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Travelling Tomorrow

The Covid-19 pandemic was good news for business air travel


On the business air travel side of the tarmac at Geneva Airport, the private jets look like miniature planes next to the Airbus that has just landed on Saturday, May 21. While one, the ACJ319 (for Airbus Corporate Jets), is an airliner dressed up in a business version, with a tall profile and wide body, the competition’s jets offer much narrower, tapered cabins.

The European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), taking place May 23 to 25 in this Swiss city, is an opportunity for Airbus to present its A220 ACJ, the latest addition to its fleet. This is the sector’s first convention after two years lost to the pandemic. Airbus also wants to take advantage of the incredible “boom” during the crisis, said Simon Rochefort, vice president of sales for VistaJet, one of the world’s leading business aviation companies.

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While regular airlines have been at an almost complete stop, business jets have taken off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Between 2020 and 2021, the number of clients has grown by 50%,” Simon Rochefort says. In 2021, private jet flights increased by 22% compared to 2019, according to the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). All manufacturers in the sector – including French firm Dassault, American company Gulfstream and Canadian Bombardier – enjoyed soaring sales in 2021. Quebec-based Bombardier’s vice president, Michel Ouellette, is still pleased to have “made the strategic decision to refocus Bombardier on business aviation.” These are “historic” sales, he said. In 2021, the manufacturer has delivered 120 aircraft and expects to do even better in 2022.

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Dassault is rejoincing, with 61 aircraft delivered last year, compared to only 15 in 2020. According to CEO Eric Trappier, the only problem is “minor delays” due to problems with components, which have already caused a six-month delay in the release of the new Falcon 6X, now scheduled for mid-2023. This delay is probably also linked to the long labor dispute between the group’s management and production employees, who are demanding higher wages.

The most expensive private jet, the Bombardier Global 7500, is priced at around 75 million euros

The star attraction of the convention in Geneva is the brand new Airbus. It is a “game changer,” according to Benoît Defforge, president of Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ), the European aircraft manufacturer’s business division. With the A220, Airbus is moving from the very narrow market of airliners converted to business aircraft to the much broader market of business jets. While the former involves only 400 planes, the latter encompasses more than 2200 aircraft. “That’s five times more,” said Defforge. And maybe “ten times more,” according to his competitor Alexis Fecteau, sales manager of Boeing Business Jets. Until the A220 existed, Airbus could not compete with Gulfstream, Dassault or Bombardier. “This is the first time we can take them on. Previously we were 20 to 25 million euros above them,” said Mr. Defforge.

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