Globalization of business propels Middle East jet sales

Published November 18th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The business jet sector is the fastest and most dynamic growing niche in the Middle East aviation market, as more and more corporations turn to private airplanes to enhance their ability to conduct international business, while providing high-levels of privacy and security to their executives, industry experts say.  


Boeing Business Jets (BBJ), a private version of the 737, designed for corporate and VIP applications, has sold 83 airplanes worldwide since it was launched in 1996. Of this total, 21 airplanes were sold in the Middle East. Sources in Boeing reported that the demand for business jets increased noticeably following the September 11 attacks on the USA, apparently for security considerations, according to Al-Bayan


The big two commercial aircraft makers, Boeing Co. and Airbus Industrie, cater mainly to the larger business jetliner market. Demand for larger private aircraft had originated in the Gulf region, particularly related to the need for increased cargo space. In fact, the first of three Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) ever manufactured were delivered to Saudi Arabia, while the Kharafi Group in Kuwait was the first customer to receive the Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ), a customized version of the A319, in 1999.  


While most customers in North America and Europe, where the bulk of the business jet market is placed, tend to be large corporations, the Middle East, and in particular the oil-rich Gulf Arab region, provides an important market for private jets sold to high net worth individuals. 


A private airplane can cost anything between $50 million and $55 million, with fractional ownership programs making such planes available to a wider market. The choice of jets ranges from the Learjet 45, which seats around eight passengers, to the wide-bodied Boeing Business Jet, which can accommodate 30-40 passengers in first-class comfort and is often fitted with conference facilities and bedrooms. 


Last year, the Saudi executive charter service company, National Air Services (NAS), signed a $170 million contract with US-based Raytheon Aircraft for the purchase of 14 Hawker 800XP business jets. NAS previously ordered 14 Gulfstream IV-SPs at a cost of $340 million, and 12 Falcon 2000 jets for $50 million. The company now intends to invest another $1.3 billion in modernizing its fleet. 


Canada’s Bombardier Inc alone sold 280 business aircraft in the Middle East region to date. The region’s private jet market is also supplied by Dassault Aviation and Cessna. — (

© 2001 Mena Report (

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