Airbus 'neo' soaks up orders at rainy Paris show

22nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Europe's Airbus won what it called the biggest commercial aircraft order ever, from Indian low-cost leader IndiGo, topping a flood of sales at a rainy Paris Air Show on Wednesday.

As well as the $15 billion (10-billion-euro) sale that included 150 of the popular new A320neo model, Airbus was also expected to sign a deal to sell five of its A380 superjumbos to Qatar Airways, an industry source said.

Kuwaiti leasing company Alafco meanwhile said it had signed an agreement to buy 30 A320neo, worth a list price of $2.7 billion, praising the aircraft's "economics and low fuel burn."

"We're taking neo orders from all corners of the world, from both airlines and leasing companies, because we've hit a sweet spot in the market," said Airbus commercial head John Leahy, quoted in Alafco's statement.

"An aircraft which offers a 15 percent reduction in fuel burn is proving to be irresistible," he said of the Neo, a variant of the workhorse A320 that has been upgraded and made more fuel-efficient at a time of soaring oil prices.

IndiGo head Aditya Ghosh announced his company's deal which Leahy said was "the largest transaction in civil aviation ever done."

Meanwhile, the monster A380, in the light blue livery of Korean Air, sat on the runway at the old Le Bourget airfield northeast of Paris.

Nearby stood its US rival, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the very first one due -- after some serious technical delays -- to fly long-haul commercial routes, presented by its launch customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways.

ANA executive Shuichi Fujimura said the 787 would play "a significant role" in its ambitious plans to expand in Asia and Europe.

ANA has 55 Dreamliners on order, including 14 due for delivery in the year to March 2012 and 10 the following year, he added.

The Dreamliner wowed the crowds when it landed on Tuesday at Le Bourget, site of the world's biggest aviation industry show.

On the rainy third morning of the show, reporters splashed through the puddles to climb aboard ANA's Boeing 787, minus some seats and trimmings, and admire its larger-than-normal cabin windows, a point of pride for the airline.

Boeing has long delayed its first delivery to ANA due to technical setbacks, which Fujimura said is now expected in August or September.

The Dreamliner is heralded as a new generation of highly fuel-efficient mid-sized aircraft for long-haul routes.

Boeing meanwhile said it signed an initial agreement on Wednesday for the sale of 40 of its B737 medium-haul planes to Russian's UTair Aviation for a list price of $3.2 billion.

But most of the action on Wednesday involved the A320neo.

Qatar Airways was expected to sign up for 50 of them, according to sources close to the deal who asked not to be named.

Republic, the owner of US Frontier Airlines, signed a preliminary agreement to buy 80 A320neos worth $7 billion at list prices, Airbus said.

Latin American carrier AviancaTaca announced it intended to order 51 A320s worth $4.5 billion at catalogue prices, including 33 of the Neo. Chilean carrier LAN said it would buy 20.

Leahy said Airbus could chalk up more than 1,000 orders for the A320neo by the end of the air show.

Alafco said it also signed an accord for six big long-haul Airbus A350s for $1.6 billion at list prices.

Morning rain showers gave way to sunny skies on Wednesday afternoon, when various thundering fighters and elegant passenger jets flew over spectators' heads. The show opens to the public on Friday.

© 2011 AFP

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