Benoit Defforge, President, Airbus Corporate Jets makes a presentation outlining the year’s highlights ahead of the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show at InterCon Dubai Marina on 09 December, 2018. Photo: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News; Image Credit:

Dubai: Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ), the private-jet manufacturing arm of Airbus, said it expects to see a pick-up in demand from the Middle East next year, especially amid the forecasted stronger economic growth in Saudi Arabia.

Top executives at ACJ described 2018 as having been a “medium year” in terms of demand for private jets, due to uncertainties in the global macro-economic environment.

“You know that all over the world, and not just in our business, there are some uncertainties. When you have to invest, uncertainty is the worst thing you want to see,” said Benoit Defforge, ACJ president. “For sure, what happened around the world is impacting all investments, and we are part of these investments.”

Speaking at a press conference in Dubai, he said ACJ has sold three private jets to customers so far this year, adding that “the year is not yet finished,” hinting at another deal in the next three weeks. This is in comparison to five private jets sold in 2017.

Defforge said that uncertainty in economic outlook is leading investors, both private individuals and corporates, to “look very carefully” and wait before buying new assets.

In the Middle East and North Africa, more than half of ACJ’s clients are individuals, with the rest being government bodies.

Benoit Defforge, President, Airbus Corporate Jets makes a presentation outlining the year’s highlights ahead of the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) show at InterCon Dubai Marina on 09 December, 2018. Photo: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News;

Chadi Saade, vice president of commercial operations at ACJ, said he expects to see increased demand for private jets from the Middle East in 2019.

“In the past year, there has been some turbulence in Saudi Arabia. In the past year, it has been quite down. It’s not going to stay calm like that forever. We foresee more activity in the Middle East next year than this year, with the Saudis coming out of this situation,” Saade told Gulf News.

But he pointed that even the slightest economic turbulence can hurt buyer sentiment. In China, for example, where ACJ saw a lot of activity in 2018, a possible surge in trade tensions with the US next year would dent demand for Airbus’ private jets.

Defforge and Saade were talking on Sunday ahead of the Middle East Business Aviation Association show, which kicks off on Monday in Dubai. Airbus will be exhibiting its private jets and helicopters, highlighting new trends in the jet and helicopter markets.