Airbus takes off in Far East

Singapore Airlines is to become the first airline in the world to operate Airbus Industries 555 seat A3XX, following the announcement by the carrier of its decision to purchase up to 25 aircraft in a deal worth approximately $8.6 billion.

The decision ends months of intense lobbying by Airbus Industries and Boeing and brings Airbus within sight of the orders it needs to justify producing what would be the largest aircraft ever built.

The order appeared to deliver a rebuke to Boeing, which has derided the new aircraft as unnecessary in an industry striving to become more versatile.

Boeing has instead offered a larger version of its 747, the plane whose familiar profile has dominated air travel for the last 30 years

Airbus said it must have 40 to 50 firm orders by the end of the year to make the $11 billion A3XX project feasible.

The agreement, subject to industrial launch of the programme, covers firm orders for 10 passenger aircraft, plus 15 options for both the freighter and passenger versions.

The first A3XX will be delivered to Singapore Airlines in the first quarter of 2006, with subsequent deliveries of the firm order aircraft continuing through to 2007. ‘The selection of the A3XX by Singapore Airlines reflects clear market preference for an all-new aircraft in the very large category, especially to meet growth on key routes out of the Asian region,’ said Noël Forgeard, CEO of Airbus.

The double deck A3XX will be the largest aircraft ever built, providing more space for all passengers, plus a host of new in-flight amenities including bars and a casino.

The aircraft will, say Airbus, offer significantly lower operating costs than the largest airliner flying today, as well as full operational commonality with existing new generation Airbus types.

Airbus has now received firm commitments for a total of 32 A3XX aircraft from four customers.

In addition to Singapore Airlines, the other companies, which have signed firm commitments for the aircraft, are Emirates Airlines of Dubai, Air France and US leasing company ILFC.