Airbus Makes A Splash With US Airways

This computer generated image provided by Airbus Monday, June 18, 2007, shows an Airbus A350 bearing the colors of the US Airways. US Airways announced plans Monday June 18, 2007 to buy 92 Airbus aircraft, a big boost for the European aircraft maker on the opening day of the world's largest air show. The airline said it has agreed on terms with Airbus for 60 single-aisle A320-family aircraft and 32 widebody aircraft, including the next generation A350 XWB. (AP Photo/Airbus, Fixion, HO ) ** NO SALES **
AP Photo / Airbus, Flixion
Airbus made a splash at the Paris Air Show with the announcement that US Airways will replace its fleet of Boeing 737s with Airbus craft, and will be the first North American carrier to launch Airbus' all-new A350 XWB models.

It was one of a series of big orders announced by the European planemaker at the opening Monday of the world's biggest air show, stealing some early limelight from U.S. rival Boeing Co.

US Airways Group Inc. was one of the first to announce an order Monday, for 60 of Airbus' A320 single-aisle aircraft and 32 widebody aircraft. It also increased its previously announced order of 20 A350s by two to 22 A350 XWBs in both the 800 and larger 900 series configuration.

The A320s will replace Boeing 737-300/400s, which will be eliminated from the fleet, the carrier said. It expects to take delivery of the first A350-800 in 2014.

"This sets the stage for the next generation of the US Airways fleet, which will be one of the youngest and most efficient in the U.S. airline industry," said Doug Parker, US Airways Chairman and CEO. "We're very excited about the A350 program [and] have every confidence that Airbus will manufacture an innovative and revolutionary aircraft."

With the manufacturers' intense competition again expected to be a dominant theme of the weeklong show at Le Bourget, north of Paris, both looked to make a splash from the get-go, with billions of dollars worth of orders announced.

In addition to US Airways, Airbus booked orders from Qatar Airlines, Emirates, Jazeera Airways and Nouvelair for a raft of planes, including its problem-plagued A350 and superjumbo A380 models.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy predicted Monday that the planemaker will land more than 280 orders over the week — airlines often reserve big announcements for the show to ensure maximum impact.

At the last Le Bourget show in 2005, Airbus announced orders worth $33.5 billion, double Boeing's $15 billion, based on list prices — which are usually discounted for the deals.

Leahy noted that Airbus racked up 280 "announcements" — including memorandums of understanding and other agreements that were not firm orders — two years ago.

"I would expect to exceed that this year, by how much it will exceed, why don't we wait until Friday to see," he said.

In another major order for the Toulouse-based company, GE Commercial Aviation Services ordered 60 of the A320 family aircraft in a deal worth around $4.4 billion at list prices.

Qatar ordered 80 A350 XWBs, three A380s and three A320 family aircraft. The A350 order was a confirmation of Qatar's' earlier commitments to buy the 80 jets. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said the order for the A350s is worth $16 billion.

Two of the orders for the A380, Airbus's flagship double-decker plane, are conversions of earlier options into firm orders, he said, and the airline is taking one new order, bringing its total order for A380s to five. The three firm orders together are worth about $750 million, he said.

Wiring and other technical problems are behind a costly two-year delay in delivery of the A380. The holdup is set to cut profit by $6.2 billion for Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. NV over the next four years.

Emirates is by far the biggest single customer for the A380. It initially ordered 43 A380s and took another four in May. Emirates is believed to have obtained significantly improved financial terms for these aircraft and the latest batch of eight.

Jazeera Airways signed an order for 30 single-aisle A320 jets worth between $2.1 billion and $2.4 billion based on list prices.

Another two orders for the A320 aircraft came from Nouvelair, a Tunisian charter airline based at Monastir that belongs to the Tunisian Travel Service group.