Boeing Business Jet 2
The interior of a Boeing Business Jet 2 on display at MEBAA Show 2022, Dubai, on Tuesday. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Leading business jet manufacturers predict regional demand for private jets and charter operations will continue to grow well into 2023 despite supply chain issues and workforce cuts.

Post-pandemic, consumers and business jet users in the region have developed a real taste for ‘flying private’, and chances are these VIP flyers will not go back to flying with commercial airlines, leaders of top business jet manufacturers said.

Robust sales

Speaking to Gulf News at the sidelines of MEBAA, the region’s leading private business aviation event, Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) Marketing Director Alex Fecteau said: “This year, Boeing has secured four deals orders for BBJ 737 MAXs. The region accounts for 29 per cent of the global BBJ fleet.” Moreover, BBJs account for 75 per cent of all widebody head-of-state planes in the region. Overall, Boeing said it sold more than 260 bizliners to customers worldwide.

Fecteau and BBJ President Erika Pearson shared industry highlights for business jet operations in the region on Monday’s opening day of MEBAA. Recently appointed, Pearson said: “The Middle East and Africa (MEA) together have 820 business jets, with a large concentration of those being in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. This region sets the highest expectations for service, luxury, and space.”

“In the region, BBJs meet the needs of not only private VIP and corporate jet travelers, but it also remains the gold standard for head-of-state travel,” she said. Fecteau added, “Four BBJ family aircraft were sold so far in 2022, two new BBJ MAX airplanes were delivered, a new widebody head of state BBJ entered service, and several more sales and delivers are on tap for the upcoming year.”

Production issues, workforce cuts

Fecteau said Boeing faced production issues caused by supply chain challenges and workforce cuts. However, despite those challenges, delay in the delivery of aircraft has come down significantly compared to delays during the pandemic.

“We’ve had to delay some deliveries a couple of months later in August and September, which we delivered in October. We had some more for this month, which will be delivered in January and February. So, we’re working through that, trying to get our rate up. But I think it hasn’t been too severe,” he explained.

Pre-pandemic, Boeing said its delays were at 57 months. “We are at 31 months, and the demand is coming up. We’re trying to meet them, or we’re going through our production system, but we want to make sure everything is stable,” stated Fecteau.

The company also admitted to facing workforce cuts and is currently on a hiring spree across sectors and the globe. “A majority of our hiring is happening in the US. However, we are also looking to increase our staff size in the Middle Eastern markets,” he said. “We are looking at recruiting everyone from engineers to people in the sales and marketing divisions as well,” Fecteau stated.

Departures soar

With global business aviation traffic up 14 per cent, according to WingX, an aviation and data analysis agency, the Middle East region business jet departures are up a whopping 62 per cent compared to the same period pre-pandemic.

“With increased interest in private and business aviation in the region, BBJ is uniquely positioned to meet this growing demand. The spike in bookings to Qatar associated with the World Cup, up 345 per cent, demonstrates the demand for the benefits offered by private jet travel,” added Fecteau.