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MEBA: Airbus pitches SIA A340-500s for VVIP customers

Airbus is in talks with potential customers in the Middle East about offering the Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500s that it is buying back as reconfigured VVIP aircraft.

The European airframer bought the five aircraft back as part of a deal that saw SIA order additional A350-900 and A380 passenger aircraft.

The first SIA A340-500 will come back to Airbus in the fourth quarter of 2013, giving the company enough time to talk to potential customers about the aircraft, which is likely to include the new Gala cabin concept.

"The A340-500s are being targeted for the VVIP market," says Francois Chazelle, vice-president for Airbus Corporate Jets. "They are large and have a long range, and are perfect for this. In the VVIP configuration, they can go even further than the flights between Singapore and New York that SIA operated.

"We have spoken to potential outfitters and will be able to gauge the response from the potential customers in the coming months. There is some time before the aircraft arrive and that gives us time to work out the design and configuration. It can then take around 12 to 18 months before the aircraft are delivered to the customers."

Chazelle estimates that around one-third of Airbus corporate jet deliveries are to the Middle East, which he says helps the company to offset any potential slowdown in other parts of the world.

"We have more growth in China than the Middle East, but the Middle East is strong and stable and the orders keep on coming," he says. "That is why we have a big presence both here and in China. We don't want to be stuck in a position like some of our competitors, who have all of their eggs in one basket."

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