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Mon, Jun 18, 2007

News From Paris: Airbus Wins Important A350 XWB, A380 Orders

European Planemaker Shows Renewed Strength At Le Bourget

Airbus is off to a rollicking start at the Paris Air Show, with orders from a variety of carriers that also include vindication, of sorts, for two of its most trouble-plagued aircraft.

Dubai-based Emirates kicked things off in Le Bourget Monday with a signed Letter of Intent for eight additional Airbus A380s, bringing its total order of the superjumbo airliner to 55. The deal is worth an estimated $2.6 billion at list, though it's likely Emirates received big discounts for being a loyal customer.

“The A380 is a technologically-advanced aircraft that fits perfectly with our projected growth strategy,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Emirates Chairman and Chief Executive. “Every single one of the A380s we have ordered has been carefully planned for Emirates’ present and future requirements.”

“It gives us a great sense of pride that Emirates Airline is showing such faith in our A380 product and in Airbus," added Airbus CEO Louis Gallois. "We thank Emirates Airline for this."

Emirates will take delivery of its first A380 in the third quarter of 2008. The planes ordered Monday are slated to be delivered over 16 months, starting from July 2011.

US Airways Goes Airbus

Also making headlines Monday were reports US Airways has made its decision on whether to place a large order for medium-range aircraft with Boeing, or Airbus. Though some suspected the US carrier would shake things up with an order for Boeing 787s, in the end US Airways repeated its commitment to Airbus, and the oft-delayed A350 XWB.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker announced his airline plans to purchase a total of 92 aircraft, including 22 A350 XWBs -- in both -800 and -900 series -- and 60 narrowbody A320-family aircraft.

The agreement -- which is not a signed purchase order, although one is expected in the coming weeks -- increases US Airways' order for the original A350 aircraft by two planes. The deal also includes 10 A330 widebodies, which will tide the airline over on its long-haul routes until the A350 XWB comes online in 2013.

"We are very pleased to once again partner with Airbus," said Parker. "This transaction sets the stage for the next generation of the US Airways fleet, which will be among the youngest and most efficient in the US airline industry. We're very excited about the A350 program and have every confidence that Airbus will manufacture a truly innovative and revolutionary aircraft.”

As ANN reported, US Airways announced its order for the original A350 -- which was based heavily on the current A330, but with a new wing and engines -- in May 2005. The carrier had held off on committing to the significantly redesigned XWB, however, after Airbus announced the plane last year.

And Speaking Of The A350 XWB...

Some analysts believe US Airways' reluctance to commit to the updated plane prevented other wary airlines from purchasing the XWB... and now that US Airways has agreed to support the aircraft in the most significant way possible -- with its checkbook -- other carriers may jump onboard the bandwagon for Airbus' competitor to the Boeing 787.

On Monday, Qatar Airways formally signed its previously announced order for 80 A350 XWBs, in a deal worth $17 billion that also includes an additional three A380 superjumbos.

Qatar's XWB fleet will be comprised of 20 -800s models, 40 larger A350 XWB-900s and 20 A350 XWB-1000 aircraft, the largest of the family, and positioned by Airbus as a competitor to the Boeing 777.

Qatar CEO Akbar al-Baker said he is unconcerned with the fact Airbus has yet to finalize the design for the A350 XWB, as his airline has been "instrumental" in shaping the new airplane, reports Bloomberg.

"The aircraft definition is very tailor-made for Qatar Airways," he said.

FMI: www.airbus.com

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