Chadi Saade, VP Commercial and acting President of Airbus Corporate Jets, provides an update on the ACJ TwoTwenty and prospects across the ACJ portfolio
Already VP Commercial, Chadi Saade has stepped into the role of acting president at ACJ with the departure of Benoit Defforge. He describes more than two decades spent at Airbus: “I was in commercial, in marketing and sales, briefly on corporate, then back to commercial, building up the south Asia region, before coming back to corporate jets. My background is in aeronautical engineering and I’m passionate about aviation.”
The ACJ TwoTwenty has dominated ACJ’s recent news and Saade admits, “We’ve been talking about it a lot!” He describes it as the company’s first business jet. “We believe it’s a game changer because it delivers the perfect combination of space and comfort with intercontinental range, low operating costs and very aggressive economics. It creates the extra-large bizjet segment.
“The first aircraft has been delivered and it is beyond our expectations in terms of performance. We’ve witnessed the ‘Wow!’ effect on everyone who has seen the interior and feedback is extremely positive. We’re trying to show the first aircraft as much as we can and although the owner loves it, we still have a few slots. The second aircraft is in completion and we expect it to enter service soon.”
Meanwhile, Saade’s commercial colleagues have been busy selling the A220 airliner; at the end of August 2023 Airbus figures recorded 806 aircraft ordered and 283 delivered. As the in-service fleet continues to expand, so MRO support for the ACJ TwoTwenty becomes more easily accessible globally.
Operators of other ACJ types are already familiar with the benefits of Airbus’ commercial success. Saade explains: “It’s also a huge plus in terms of maturity. Thinking about the ACJ320 Family for example, an A320 Family airliner takes off or lands somewhere in the world every few seconds, accumulating millions of flight hours. Apply that to the ACJ TwoTwenty and even though the commercial fleet is smaller, it is still accumulating hours and gaining maturity faster than any business jet fleet where aircraft typically fly a few hundred hours per year.
“In terms of support, Airbus has a global footprint, with customer support people working with airlines everywhere. Then, in ACJ, we have a dedicated service centre network that we’re expanding as the ACJ TwoTwenty and more ACJ320s enter service. Our customers benefit from both that global footprint and dedicated service centres.”
ACJ also offers a set of services to customers looking to sell their aircraft. “Many of our customers update from CEO [classic engine option] to NEO [new engine option] ACJ320 Family aircraft, or from competitor or smaller aircraft, and we support the sales process. If it’s an ACJ, we keep a listing of available aircraft and make it available to interested parties. We can also provide inspections, on a neutral basis, should they wish. We aren’t selling the aircraft, so we’re impartial. It’s part of our Easy Start package and it’s about facilitating smooth service entry.”
Looking ahead, Saade sees the ACJ TwoTwenty spearheading significant headway in the Americas, where ACJ’s market penetration has traditionally been limited. And while the ACJ TwoTwenty has undoubtedly been the centre of attention, Saade says ACJ’s other products are far from forgotten. “We have more than 140 ACJ320 Family aircraft in service and the type offers a level of cabin design flexibility beyond the possibilities of the ACJ TwoTwenty. The ACJ320 also offers more space and the ACJ319 greater range. Nonetheless, with a range of 5,650nm, the ACJ TwoTwenty can fly for more than 12 hours, covering more than 99% of all ultra-long-range aircraft flights in 2022.
“We’ve taken two ACJ320 Family orders this year and there will be more in the last quarter, plus we have several active campaigns.”
It is also important to remember the larger end of the ACJ portfolio, represented by the ACJ330 and ACJ350. Saade notes that these serve a smaller market with fewer in service, but nonetheless emphasises their importance. “We have more than 70 widebody aircraft in service, ACJ330s and 350s in outfitting, and other aircraft sold and in production. The first ACJ330-800 and -900 will be delivered in the next couple of years and several ACJ350 campaigns are in progress – I’m hopeful of another ACJ350 order this year.”