Singapore Air to buy 29 new Airbus jets

/ Source: The Associated Press

Singapore Airlines Ltd. gave Airbus a significant boost Friday by ordering 20 of the European plane manufacturer’s new A350 XWB planes, becoming the first airline to commit to the revamped aircraft.

The Asian carrier said it also plans to exercise an option to pick up nine more of Airbus’ double-decker A380s, despite anticipated delays to the delivery of the superjumbo — pushing Airbus’ total orders or commitments at the Farnborough International Airshow beyond those reached by U.S. archrival Boeing Co.

The contract for all 29 planes is worth around $7.5 billion, the Asian carrier said.

On the final of five trade days at the show before it opens to the public, Airbus also revealed that German low-cost airline Blue Wings AG had signed a nonbinding agreement to purchase 20 A320 aircraft.

In contrast, Boeing announced just one deal Friday — an order from Spanish charter airline Futura International Airways for three Boeing Next-Generation 737-800s.

The deals took Airbus’ total orders or commitments at the biennial airshow, one of the biggest events on the aviation calendar, to 182 aircraft valued at $21.5 billion.

By contrast, Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said Friday that the Chicago-based aerospace company had booked 75 orders and commitments, worth an estimated $9.65 billion, during the air show.

Boeing spokesman Charlie Miller stressed Boeing’s strong firm orders for the first half of the year, when it far outstripped Airbus with 496 orders to 117.

All values are based on catalog prices, since the discounts that airlines typically negotiate are never disclosed.

Airbus, parent company of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., unveiled the A350 XWB on Monday as it sought to reassure investors it was back on track after last month’s shock warning of delays in deliveries of the A380 superjumbo.

“The order for more A380s represents an enormous vote of confidence in the program, whilst the selection of the all new A350 XWB reasserts Airbus’ determination to compete vigorously in the twin engine, wide-body market,” said Airbus Chief Executive Officer Christian Streiff.

Airbus’ airline customers had been increasingly vocal about their dissatisfaction with the previous A350 program. In June, Singapore Airlines signed a $4.52 billion deal for 20 Boeing 787-9 aircraft, a rival for Airbus’ problem-plagued A350.

The new A350XWB — for “extra-wide body” — seeks to beat Boeing’s Dreamliner at its own game. It offers bigger windows, a roomier cabin, even greater fuel efficiency and a larger stretch version seating 350 passengers. The plane has a list price of $185 million, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer John Leahy said at the launch on Monday.

“It is heartening that Airbus has listened to customer airlines and has come up with a totally new design for the A350,” said Singapore Airlines Chief Executive Chew Choon Seng.

Chew said the technical specifications will make the new Airbus plane “a very competitive aircraft in its class for the coming decades.”

The chairman of Dubai-based carrier Emirates gave cautious approval and British Airways PLC said it will study the Airbus blueprint before deciding on new mid-sized planes.

Airbus has sold more planes than rival Boeing for the last five years but, despite its success at Farnborough, that looks set to change this year. In the first half of 2006, Airbus took orders for just 117 planes while Boeing won close to 500 orders.