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MEBA: A320neo too far away to affect near-term ACJ sales

Airbus's corporate and private aviation executives are focused on continuing to sell delivery positions for their narrowbody corporate jets in the coming years, even though the A320neo will become available from 2016.

Delivery positions are available for current-generation aircraft for 2012, says Francois Chazelle, Airbus vice-president for executive and private aviation. He is unconcerned that the re-engined narrowbody will prompt customers to wait for it, saying that their priority is to get the right aircraft as soon as possible.

"I still have a few aircraft to sell until 2016," says Chazelle. "I know the corporate jet customers are not really interested in 2016 deliveries."

Airbus announced on 1 December that it plans to introduce its A320neo with two new engine options from spring 2016. The Pratt & Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan will be offered alongside the CFM International Leap-X. It has committed to re-engining the A320, A319 and A321, but has yet to commit to the smallest member of the family, the A318, which serves as the platform for the Elite corporate jet.

In the longer term, Chazelle sees the A320neo as a chance to provide additional range to today's Bombardier and Gulfstream customers. It offers a larger cabin at the $65 million price point as the A318 Elite, which is comparable to what it costs to buy the ultra-long-range Bombardier Global 7000 and 8000 that enter service in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Chazelle says if Airbus commits to a re-engined A318, it will be driven by the corporate jet side of the business, not by commercial operators, who provided the shrunken narrowbody a tepid market reception.

The A320neo's new engines and fuel saving sharklets tout a 15% improvement in fuel burn and up to 500nm (925km) boost in range for airline operators. Overall, Chazelle says a boost in range for customers is less of a priority for the ACJ family customers who can reach all of Europe non-stop from the Middle East.

David Velupillai, Airbus marketing director for executive and private aviation, says the performance improvements may not translate the same way to VIP operators as they do for commercial operators.

"A lot of our corporate jet customers will probably want the Sharklets more for the visual effect than for the actual performance improvements," says Chazelle.

Chazelle says Middle East customers have rated baggage space as their top priority, asking for removal of fuel tanks to make way for more cargo space.

Half of the more than 100 ACJs in the world are operating in the Middle East and North Africa, says Chazelle.

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