What to get the executive who has everything? You might consider picking out Airbus’ latest addition to its Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) portfolio – the A350 XWB Prestige.
The A350-900 features a luxurious VIP interior and is powered by Rolls Royce Trent XWBB87 engines. Other products in the ACJ family include the A318 Elite, ACJ and A320 Prestige all the way up to VIP versions of the A330, A340 and even the double-deck A380. What characterises this new-generation aircraft, says John Leahy, Airbus CEO, customers, is their being “eco-efficient”.
He added: “The A350 is already very successful with airline customers and leasing companies. We are also convinced that it is ideal for heads of states, government officials and other VIPS for their long-distance travel, as it offers both the cabin space as well as the range to comfortably reach virtually any part of the world non stop.”
Boasting more range and more cabin width and floorspace than any other existing aircraft in its class, the A350 XWB has been designed to burn much less fuel, reducing emissions and is extremely quiet.
Since Airbus began actively marketing its range of corporate jets in 1997, it has sold over 20 aircraft to the region, snapped up by buyers mainly in China and Hongkong, said David Velupillai, marketing director, Airbus executive and private aviation. At the recent Dubai air show, well-known Hongkong feng shui master Tony Chan was announced to have ordered an A350 XWB Prestige, while at last month’s ABACE business aviation forum, another Hongkong businessman signed up for another. They join the queue of many other high-net worth individuals and companies waiting their turn to take delivery.
Firm orders for airliner versions of the A350 XWB family now stand at 300 with a prestigious and growing customer base that includes airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Vellupillai says that Airbus products have youth and innovation on their side. “Incredibly, none of the aircraft that Airbus produces today were in airline service and carrying passengers 20 years ago. Early Airbus aircraft – A300s and A310s – were flying passengers before that, but we stopped producing them in July last year. Every single Airbus aircraft we manufacture today, from our A320 family, through the A330/A340 family and up to the A380, has come out within the last 20 years.
“All these aircraft families are brand-new designs, not updated versions of older aircraft.”
In 1997, the 124-seat A319 arrived, presenting an alternative to the older, traditional top-of-the-line business jets such as Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream IV and V. Said Vellupillai: “We realised that we could take an A319 and turn it into an ACJ, which would offer far more comfort and space than traditional business jets and seating for around 19 passengers, yet still be in the same price bracket as the competition. The big thing we offer from the competition is space.
“Our cabin is twice as wide and it’s easier to stand upright in. It’s customers who are looking for something bigger and better and offer more comfort. When you’re flying long distances, you want to be as comfortable as possible.”
Luxury, of course, has a price. An A350-XWB without the cabin costs an estimated US$230 million.
Margie T Logarta