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Habib Fekih

UAE, DUBAI - Transport

The Will to Fly

President, Middle East, Airbus

Bio

Habib Fekih has been the President of Airbus Middle East since June 2006, and was also appointed the President of Airbus Corporate Jets in 2011. With more than 30 years of aviation experience, he is a veteran in his field and has played a major role in developing and expanding the regional aviation industry.

"The Dubai Airshow has firmly established itself as one of the top airshows in the world."

Airbus has taken orders for almost 1,000 aircraft in the MENA region since it began operations. What is the significance of this market in terms of the company’s global operations?

The Middle East has in many ways become a leader in global aviation, and has always shown a strong desire to grow its aviation footprint, not just regionally, but globally as well. At Airbus, we strongly believe in the region’s strengths, which is why we established a fully fledged subsidiary here—Airbus Middle East—in 2006, and our global market forecast predicts that the Middle East will take 7% of the world’s aircraft deliveries between 2011 and 2030.

Dubai has become a hub for the entire aviation industry and the company’s regional headquarters is located in the Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZ). What are the main strengths of the Emirate?

Dubai’s main strengths are in its perfect geographical location between East and West, which enables it to act as a vital passenger and cargo hub between Asia and Europe, and its rich aviation history—everything from the original airport in 1959, to the opening of the Middle East’s largest airport—at the time—in 1971, and the founding of Emirates Airlines, now one of the largest airlines in the world. Dubai also has some of the best transport logistics systems in the region, making it a natural place for Airbus to maintain both a commercial office, as well as a material and logistics center, and training team.

“The Dubai Airshow has firmly established itself as one of the top airshows in the world.”

Airbus received firm orders for 135 aircraft at the Dubai Airshow, worth $13.7 billion. How important is the event to Airbus?

The Dubai Airshow has firmly established itself as one of the top airshows in the world, and it’s always an important and exciting event for Airbus. In 2011 we were very pleased with the results, such as the orders from Qatar Airways for 50 A320neo aircraft and five A380s, and from ALAFCO for 50 A320neo aircraft, which had an additional 35 added to it at the recent Singapore Airshow. We’re very much looking forward to 2013, and we hope to replicate the great success that we had in 2011.

A high demand for Airbus’s lower cost, single-aisle aircraft were to thank for such sales figures at the airshow. Will you be ramping up the production of wide-bodied aircraft?

Each Airbus aircraft has its unique place in the market, and with the recent expansion of many short-to mid-range carriers, we’ve seen excellent sales of the A320neo, which offers more than 15% fuel savings with its new generation engines and large wingtip devices called “sharklets.” However, mid-to long-range flights are also growing in number, which is why the A380 has remained so popular with larger carriers, and why the new A350 XWB program, which will offer 25% fuel savings compared to the competition, is a success, with over 550 of the aircraft ordered to date. The A350 XWB entry into service will be in the first half of 2014, with Qatar Airways as the launch customer.

What does the new Airbus Corporate Jets business unit offer to customers?

Airbus offers the most modern and comprehensive corporate jet family in the world, giving customers the greatest choice of the widest and most spacious cabins. The company’s corporate jets range from the Airbus ACJ318 all the way to the double-deck ACJ380, allowing customers to select the comfort they want in the size that they need. Since our corporate jets are based on our passenger jet designs, they offer the tallest and widest, and therefore the most comfortable, cabins available on the corporate jet market. We also offer a wide range of interior design options to suit any need, from business to personal luxury.

The company has a number of development programs in place, representing a huge investment and high risk for Airbus—how confident are you of being able to deliver these programs on time?

We are extremely confident in both the A320neo and A350 XWB programs, and the way in which they are already changing the industry. The A320neo is already the fastest selling aircraft of all time, with 1,226 orders made in 2011, and the A350 XWB, which comes in three sizes, will offer airlines so many distinct advantages, from fuel savings, to commonality of design, to flexibility with range, cabin arrangement, and cargo space. The A350 XWB family truly is an aircraft doing the job of two competing aircraft families.

© The Business Year – April 2012

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