Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group, after inaugurating the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association show at Al Maktoum International Airport. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) said it expects to see an “upslope” in demand for its private jets in 2019 as global economic growth continues, saying it was not “overly concerned” about issues such as trade tensions.

The private-jet manufacturing arm of Boeing said on Monday it has sold six business jets so far this year, down from 16 in 2017. Greg Laxton, head of BBJ, told reporters that 12 of the 16 private jets sold last year were to heads of states around the world.

“I don’t think anything has changed [from this year to last year]. It’s a matter of circumstance; we had a surge in [demand from] heads of states last year,” he said. “The market ebbs and flows a little bit. When you have 16 or 17 in one year, sometimes it’s like the perfect storm.”

Laxton said 2018 was still a “pretty good year” for Boeing Business Jets.

“I think that [there’s] nothing wrong with the market. I still see a very nice upslope, especially with GDPs (Gross Domestic Product) continuing to grow around the world,” he said.

Asked about trade tensions that have been picking up steam, Laxton said he expects BBJ to maintain its market share despite those challenges.

Laxton was speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association show where private jet manufacturers showcased their latest offerings.

Boeing showcased its twin-aisle BBJ 777X, which is its latest private jet to join the Boeing fleet. The 777X has two models; the BBJ 777-8, and the 777-9, which can fly a maximum of 21,570 kilometres and 20,370 kilometres respectively — or more than halfway around the world non-stop.

BBJ said it doesn’t have a first customer confirmed to buy the 777X yet, but is “still hunting” for one.

“Based on the fact that 52 per cent of our twin-aisles go to the Middle East, we thought it was an appropriate place to launch it. Do we think that trend will continue? Probably, but we’re marketing it around the world,” Laxton said.

The Middle East accounts for the largest share of orders for BBJ, at 29 per cent — larger than North America, which accounts for 25 per cent of all orders. They are followed by Asia Pacific at 22 per cent, Europe at 17 per cent, and Africa and Latin America at 4 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

BBJ said it expects sales of the latest 777 jet to follow along the same lines of the 747 model, which was largely to heads of states and VVIP customers.