Emirates leads first wave of £3.3bn orders for A3XX

Middle East airline Emirates, Air France and US leasing firm ILFC led the way this week in making £3.3bn of firm orders for the Airbus A3XX `super-jumbo’ airliner.

Airbus said it expected to receive more firm commitments during this week’s Farnborough air show. It is understood that Singapore Airlines could order up to 16 A3XXs worth £2.4bn.

As a 20% partner in Airbus, BAE Systems will build the wings for the A3XX at its Filton site near Bristol and at its Broughton site near Chester.

Emirates became the first airline to sign a firm commitment and place a deposit for an order worth around £1bn, since Airbus Industrie started formally offering the A3XX to airlines in June. The agreement covers five passenger versions, two freighters, and five options.

Deliveries of the passenger versions start in February 2006, and those of the freighters in spring 2008. Emirates has yet to choose between Engine Alliance GP7200 and Rolls-Royce Trent 900 turbofans to power its A3XXs.

Confirming the interest it announced in June, Air France also signed a letter of intent for 10 A3XXs worth £1.5bn, while ILFC signed a commitment for five planes worth around £750m.

Six more companies have expressed interest in acquiring A3XXs but have not yet placed firm orders.

With global air travel forecast to double in the next 15 years and triple in the next 22, a move towards larger aircraft is the only practical way to meet passenger demand, Airbus says.

The upbeat A3XX news still attracted condemnation from US aircraft maker Boeing, which is offering its rival Boeing 747 Stretch to airlines looking for giant airliners. Boeing chairman Phil Condit attacked European government development loans to Airbus saying Boeing wanted `competition on a level playing field on commercial terms’.

Responding, Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard reiterated that the government loans were repayable.

Airbus expects to win a total of 200 orders across its entire range of aircraft this week to add to 239 won in the first half of this year, Forgeard said.

Airbus Military Company is also expected this week to receive new orders from Europea governments for 218 A400M military transport aircraft. The Ministry of Defence has already made a commitment to buy 25 of the aircraft for the RAF.

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