PARIS – Airbus SAS said Tuesday that Spanish airline Air Europa has become the first to commit to buying the A350, the jet being developed by the European plane maker to rival the Boeing Co.’s 7E7 Dreamliner.
Air Europa signed a memorandum of understanding to buy 10 A350s worth about $2 billion at list prices, with options on two more – less than two weeks after European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. gave subsidiary Airbus the go-ahead to begin marketing the new plane.
The Toulouse, France-based plane maker has to win a critical mass of A350 orders before management decides to begin production of the plane. CEO Noel Forgeard said he was aiming for 50 orders before June’s Paris Air Show.
Airbus said Air Europa also plans to lease one A340-200, a longer-range, four-engine jet, and two new A330-200s over the next two years.
Chief Airbus salesman John Leahy said recently that the company is in “serious discussions” to sell the plane to Qatar Airways, Ireland’s Aer Lingus Group PLC, Korean Air Co. and at least six other airlines in addition to Air Europa.
Earlier Tuesday, Airbus announced an order for 30 of its 180-seat A320s from Air Deccan, a new Indian no-frills airline, strengthening its hold on that country’s growing airline industry.
Airbus will begin delivery of the new aircraft in 2007. Air Deccan operates three leased A320s and has more on order for 2005.
The order from Air Deccan comes barely a week after another Bangalore-based airline, Kingfisher Airways, bought 10 A320s and took options on 20 more.