Private jets taking off with Chinese clients, says Airbus’ François Chazelle
PARIS, Dec 5 — With leaders of the luxury tourism industry converging on the French Riviera for Cannes’s International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM), December 3 to 6, it’s time to look at one of the most exclusive niche markets for the super rich: private jets. François Chazelle, VP sales for Airbus Corporate Jet, offers his take on the market’s evolution.
Relaxnews: What are deep-pocketed customers looking for when they order a private jet?
François Chazelle: It’s true that the interiors of private planes can fuel fantasies. Above all, our clients want to be able to do anything they are used to doing at home when on the plane. The aircraft turns into a genuine flying apartment. They want a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room. Afterwards, what differentiates them are the decor and layout.
R: Who are your biggest clients?
FC: The market is undoubtedly a niche one. Only around 1,200 people in the world, all billionaires of course, can truly afford that type of aircraft. Our traditional market base is the Middle East, but we are now witnessing growing demand from China, with the emergence of a new wealthy class. We get about a dozen new orders per year, on average.
R: How much does a private jet cost?
FC: For the smallest ones, which still offer 75 square metres, the minimum would be US$72 million (RM220 million). For the A380, which offers 550 square metres of private space whose layout can be customised, we don’t release pricing to the “general public.” Keep in mind that to date only one of these very large aircraft has been sold in a private sale, in Saudi Arabia.
R: Is there anything that can’t be put into a private jet?
FC: We have to adhere to the plane’s safety standards, and all the installations have to be certified prior to being set up. Which means that, despite some people’s wildest dreams, you’ll never see a swimming pool on board a plane... Along the same lines, we never fit bathtubs in planes, because in cases of turbulence, we wouldn’t know where the water would spill. We do, however, set up showers and saunas on planes. Regarding the choice of materials, we use high-end materials, such as marble, but in thin layers so as to take into account the technical requirements that enable the plane to fly.
R: Do clients’ requests vary significantly between the different markets?
FC: There is a lot of crossover between the markets; the main differences can be seen with the style of decor. In the Middle East, for instance, clients will ask for “majlis,” small, traditional sitting areas framed by couches all around. For Asia, we developed a round table for six that transforms into a square table for mahjong.
R: What is the most amusing request you’ve heard from a client?
FC: One day, a Chinese client asked us jokingly to set up a karaoke room, thinking it wouldn’t be possible. He didn’t expect to us to actually respond favourably. And so a rich traveller can indulge in his favourite hobby, thousands of miles above our heads. — AFP/Relaxnews