BBJ Targets Charter Operators As New President Flies In To EBACE
GENEVA—Following the pandemic and with the 737 MAX flying again, Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) has returned to EBACE with a new president, the announcement that a new company-owned demonstrator is nearing completion and with a renewed focus on winning customers in the charter-operator segment of the high-end bizliner market.
"The business-jet market has rebounded pretty significantly higher than the commercial market," BBJ marketing director Alex Fecteau tells ShowNews. "But although private aviation is at 15 or 25% above 2019 levels, what we find is you have to look a little deeper to see what that really means. The domestic [U.S.] market with the small, light and medium-sized business jets has recovered much faster than the larger, long-range international type. But we're starting to see it affect us now, though."
The company has also booked four sales so far this year. In 2021, the company took two new orders, and delivered a further six aircraft—including the first two BBJ 737-8s. The orders taken in the first four months of 2022 therefore mean this year is already going twice as well.
The company targets three distinct market segments: head-of-state and government; private individuals; and charter operators. At present charter operators have 15-20% of the in-service BBJ fleet, but those sales are not always coming new from Boeing. Pre-owned BBJs are likely to have flown only a fraction of the hours of a commercial 737 of similar age, so to a buyer it is an almost-new aircraft that is significantly cheaper than list prices. But the recent spike in pre-owned bizjet values and the precipitous drop in inventory means that there may be more opportunities to sell new BBJ aircraft.
"Not only are we seeing much more interest in the airplanes, but this [current, higher, pre-owned aircraft] pricing is sort of becoming the norm now," he says. "A lot of pre-owned transactions are going for above list price since about the last half of last year. So, of course, that demand is starting to impact new airplane prices as well. That's finally starting to hit the upper segment of the market where we reside, so we're happy about that."
To consolidate this strengthening position, the company is investing in a 737-7 BBJ demonstrator. Fecteau says the aircraft, which has been manufactured, is going through final certification before its additional long-range fuel tanks are installed. It will then be sent for cabin completion, and is expected to start flying next summer.
"This one will be much like our current demonstrator in terms of floor plan," he says. "It'll have two state rooms, two full showers, for the privacy for the VIPs. It'll have full lay-flat seats for staff or security to accompany. And also, crew rest, which is nice on an airplane of this size—you can have full crew rest for two additional crew for flights over 12 hours which won't impinge on space for the principal or the VIPs in back."
Meanwhile, the company used their opening EBACE media conference to introduce new president Erika Pearson. She has taken up the reins at BBJ after serving as Boeing's commercial sales director in the Asia-Pacific region. She joined the company in 1993 as an aerodynamics engineer.
"I'm honored to be leading Boeing Business Jets at such a dynamic time in business aviation," Pearson said ahead of her first visit to EBACE, just days into her tenure in the role. "I'm really looking forward to taking my experience in commercial aviation and translating that to this unique market segment."