National Air Services (NAS), the largest provider of VVIP and executive air transport services in the Middle East, has made a firm commitment to purchase five A318 Elites and has taken an option for five additional aircraft, becoming the launch customer in the Middle East for this new member of the Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ) Family.

Jeddah-based NAS plans to use the aircraft to support VIP customers throughout the Middle East, including routes from Saudi Arabia to Europe, introducing new standards of comfort and style in this market. Deliveries of these new aircraft will commence in the final quarter of 2006.

Derived from the Airbus A318 airliner, the Elite has seating for 14-18 passengers in a spacious and luxurious layout that allows them to socialize and move around. Its cabin features settees as well as seats clustered around tables, both of which can be converted into full-length beds for maximum sleeping comfort.

“When you are in the market for private jet transport of around 15 passengers, you cannot beat the space, comfort and economics of the Airbus 318 Elite,” says NAS President and CEO Mohammed Al Zeer. “In this market, it is the quality of service and comfort that count and the Airbus A318 Elite will help us to deliver both with elegance and style.”

NAS is the largest private operator of business jets in the Middle East, having 28 aircraft in its fleet today. The addition of these Elite aircraft will reinforce the company’s position as the operator of the largest fleet of Airbus VIP aircraft in the world. NAS already operates two Airbus A319 Executives on scheduled all-premium class services between regional destinations, as well as on ad-hoc charters. NAS also operates one ACJ and two VIP A320s for private clients, and has been chosen to fly a VIP A340-600.

“In making wide-cabin comfort more accessible to executive and private users, we gain entry to a larger market that builds on the success of the Airbus ACJ Family, which has already reached the milestone of over 50 sales,” says Airbus President and CEO Gustav Humbert. “The Middle East is an important market for us in both airliners and private jets, and we look forward to continued success here.”

The purchase of these aircraft will be financed by CALYON – the Credit Agricole Banking Group. “This transaction represents the first financing undertaken by the bank for a private aviation company in Saudi Arabia, and we are very happy to work with an innovative organization like NAS” said Anne-Marie Siffroy-Pytlak, Senior Vice President in the Corporate and Investment Bank at CALYON.

The Airbus A318 Elite has a range of up to 4,000 nm – enough to fly non-stop from the Middle East to Europe, or from London to New York. It will be delivered as an already outfitted aircraft, under a partnership between Airbus and Lufthansa Technik.

The Airbus ACJ Family comprises the A318 Elite, the Airbus ACJ/A3I9 Executive/ A319 Long Range, and the A320 Prestige. They all feature the most modern design, as well as the most space and comfort of any business jet in their class – plus a host of features that are either unavailable or cost more on competing aircraft. These include public transport certification, side-stick controllers and fly-by-wire controls, category 3B autoland, wingtip fences and centralised maintenance.

The Airbus ACJ thus delivers not only more space for the money, but a host of additional features, representing the best value available in its class.

Airbus is an EADS joint company with BAE Systems.