Middle East Bizjet Buyers Seek Range, Capacity, Bombardier Says

Credit: Bombardier

The Middle East has a strong appetite for long-range and ultra-long-range business jets, including the 7,700-nm Global 7500, which is making its first airshow appearance in the region during the Dubai Airshow, says Wassim Saheb, Bombardier director of sales for the Middle East and North Africa. Next, customers in the region are interested in how many passengers the aircraft can carry. Bombardier’s installed base of business jets in the Middle East totals 146, ranking seventh on the company’s list of largest installed bases, behind North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia.

Saheb is an engineer by training, a Challenger and Global-rated pilot, speaks five languages and has lived in Morocco, Egypt, Montreal and the Middle East. One of his biggest satisfactions is being able to converse with pilots, engineers, company executives or anyone in the sales process, he says. His background allows him to connect with a broad spectrum of customers.  

“It’s very important that you’re always on the same pulse with the customer,” Saheb says. “You’re at the same energy level.”

Buyers in the Middle East are seeking the range to fly from the region directly to London, Paris, and Geneva, Switzerland, or the east coast of North America, he says.

Demand for new and pre-owned business jets in the Middle East has risen. The number of inquiries and transactions is now above 2019 levels, Saheb says.

First-time buyers have risen from about 10% of total sales to 25%, as airlines operate reduced schedules and travelers are reluctant to visit congested airports with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many first-time buyers have been introduced to charter operations during the pandemic and have now elected to acquire an aircraft, he says.

At the same time, the number of pre-owned aircraft available for sale has shrunk significantly over the past six months and fewer aircraft are available.

“The market has really shifted,” Saheb says. “So, we see the discussion steer towards newer aircraft faster.”

Often, buyers are corporations using the aircraft as a pure business tool, those who own a group of companies and use it for business and personal use or other high net worth individuals, Saheb says.

Unlike in the U.S., buyers in the Middle East cannot take advantage of accelerated depreciation on the aircraft, making pricing a key factor. With buyers in the Middle East, “every dollar counts,” Saheb says.  “It’s really coming from the bottom line.”

Negotiations can be a lengthy process with the time between a lead to closing a sale taking an average of two-to-four years.

“So, you have to be very patient and give it its time,” Saheb says. “That’s in general: It’s like a marathon; it’s not a hundred or 200-m race.”

With rising order backlogs, one challenge is the longer wait times for delivery of a new business aircraft, he says. The wait, however, gives customers time to select and customize their aircraft interiors.

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.