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Wed, Nov 28, 2007

Airbus Shows Off A380 To MSP, Northwest

Denies Visit Is A Sales Call

Twin Cities airplane aficionados appreciated the stopover of an Airbus A380 Tuesday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport... but it's doubtful whether executives at Northwest Airlines were swayed by the gesture.

Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell flatly told The Associated Press the A380 visit wasn't intended to be a sales call for Northwest. "I wouldn't say it's an effort to convince them," he said. "The aircraft really speaks for itself."

Despite the official denial, Airbus probably hoped the superjumbo airliner spoke loudly to Northwest executives, who were treated to a 90-minute flight Tuesday afternoon. Later this week, the aircraft will head to Los Angeles International, and onward to Sydney, Australia.

On paper, Northwest would appear to be a likely A380 customer, due to its high-volume routes to Asia -- now flown primarily by Boeing 747-400s. Instead of signing up for the A380 to replace those aircraft, however, the airline has opted instead for Boeing's smaller 787 Dreamliner.

One analyst said Airbus is showing off the A380 as its "halo" model -- much like a Chevy dealer will put a Corvette on the showroom floor, in hopes of moving its more pedestrian offerings. In this case, Airbus may hope Northwest will be convinced to instead sign for other airplanes -- notably, the upcoming A350 XWB.

"They have a pretty good chance of selling [Northwest] A350s and of course more narrowbodies anytime," Teal Group aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia said. "But A380s, that's selling coal to people who have an oil-burning furnace."

Then again, Airbus may be hoping Northwest follows a similar path as British Airways -- which recently agreed to order 12 A380s, after earlier saying it saw little need for the mammoth airliner.

After all... as the AP writer succinctly put it, "no one flies [to MSP] in November for the scenery."



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