Airbus is targeting the Middle East region with its latest (and perhaps greatest) luxury business jet. It’s known as the “ACJ Two Twenty” a newcomer to the Airbus Corporate Jet family.
The aircraft is an Airbus A220 – the former Bombardier CSeries – and the passenger version is already in service across the world, including with Delta, SWISS, & Korean Air.
I’ve written previously about the A220 – it’s the aircraft that quickly became my favourite short-range jet to fly, a jet that combines genuine passenger comfort with aerodynamic efficiency, slick design, and new levels of ‘hushed’ engine tones.
Climbing to cruising altitude in the A220 isn’t comparable to any other single-aisle aircraft. It’s incredibly smooth, and as a result, feels faster. When the aircraft banks left or right, the aerodynamic motion of the turn is again, much like a larger jet. It’s also…silent. There isn’t a vibration to be felt, nor an obvious acceleration noise.
It’s a capable jet, and with a take-off field length as short as 1,460 metres. As a result, it’s the largest aircraft able to operate in the constrained environment of London City Airport, in the United Kingdom. There are air vents, large bathrooms, and even overhead screens – the same cannot be said for the likes of the Airbus A320neo, or the soon-to-return, troubled Boeing 737 MAX.
Now, this comfortable jet has had a business jet makeover – emerging as the “TwoTwenty” an extra-large business jet that will fly up to 18 passengers and up to 5,650 nm/10,460 km (over 12 flight hours) and can directly connect city pairs like Doha to London, London to Los Angeles, Moscow to Jakarta, Tokyo to Doha and Beijing to Melbourne.
While occupying the same parking space and being able to take off from the same airports as competing business jets, the ACJ Two Twenty will offer three times more cabin space, making it a swift, sporty luxury liner that has the potential to shake up not only the business aviation sector but the head-of-state and government aircraft market – many of whom are missing their fuel and environmental efficiency targets by operating older, gas-guzzling jets not fit for today’s world.
The $81mn jet has a cabin can be divided into six wide zones: A living room, conference room, dining room, master bedroom with an en suite & shower, and a full-size galley with crew rest area. The design includes Airbus’ signature LED lighting, advanced soundproofing materials, a temperature control system and an integrated cabin humidification system. In our remote working world, the aircraft is fully connected with an office or home-like Internet connection for online video conferencing or streaming services on screens throughout the cabin, including a 55”/4K large screen.
The response from the market has already been positive, despite the global challenge of the pandemic, Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) president Benoit Defforge told me, given Airbus is launching this business jet amid this pandemic.
It’s a completely new value market proposition for the Middle East. We’re able to offer the region an aircraft with 3 x more space, transcontinental range, as much space as you can get onboard, unrivalled reliability of an Airbus product, ACJ vice-president of commercial Stan Shparberg told me during a recent zoom meeting.
Deliveries are scheduled to begin as early as December 2022. Comlux, which has a completion centre in Indianapolis, will also outfit the cabins of the first 15 TwoTwenty jets.
ACJ has taken orders and commitments this year for 13 aircraft, and delivered four jets, executives say. The orders include six TwoTwenty jets, four ACJ320neos and three ACJ330s.
Elsewhere, Bombardier’s new CEO, Éric Martel, believes that the current coronavirus crisis will have a positive impact on the business jet business.
"Business jet usage is expected to rebound to 80% to 85% of 2019 levels in the 4th quarter of 2020 and fully rebound by the middle of 2021, indicating demand for business jet travel is returning after the global pandemic caused a slowdown in the industry earlier this year," said Heath Patrick, president, Americas Aftermarket, Honeywell Aerospace.
"The information we gleaned from operators shows a less than 1% decline in five-year purchase plans, so despite the short-term effects of the pandemic, we don't expect long-term changes to purchase plans or to the overall health of the business jet market."
Five-year purchase plans for new business jets are down less than one percentage point compared with last year's survey. Among those purchase plans of new business jets over the next five years, 30% are expected to occur in the next two years. This is 5 percentage points lower than last year's survey, due mainly to near-term uncertainty. Business jet deliveries in 2021 are expected to be up 13% from a Covid-impacted 2020. The longer-range forecast through 2030 projects a 4% to 5% average annual growth rate of deliveries in line with expected worldwide economic recovery. This figure is higher than in 2019 due in part to Covid-related declines in 2020.
In the Middle East, higher purchase plans for business aviation jets were reported, following a five-year low in 2019.
*The author is an aviation analyst.