By DEAN VISSER
SINGAPORE – Singapore Airlines said today it will buy 10 of Airbus Industrie’s massive A3XX jetliners and options for 15 more, giving a huge boost to the European aircraft maker in its bitter battle with American rival Boeing Co.
The total value of the deal, including firm orders and options, is worth $8.6 billion, Singapore Airlines officials said today.
Delivery of the planes to Singapore will take place between 2006 and 2011, the airline said.
Singapore Airlines said it will be the first carrier to operate the new aircraft.
The announcement today was a harsh blow to Boeing, which had been aggressively marketing its own planned plane, the larger-capacity 747X, in Singapore.
Singapore Airlines’ decision “was the culmination of a keenly contested competition between the A3XX and the B747X,” the airline said in a statement today.
“We remain committed to the 747X family of airplanes despite Singapore Airlines’ announcement today,” said Alan Mulally, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group, a unit of Boeing Co.
“Singapore Airlines continues to be one of our most important customers. They operate 47 of our 747s, and 18 of our 777s,” Mulally said in a statement.
Airbus was jubilant about the sale.
“The selection of the A3XX by Singapore Airlines reflects clear market preference for an all-new aircraft in the very large category,” Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard said in a news release.
Airbus’ gigantic A3XX, still in the development stage, will be able to carry up to 650 passengers – the biggest passenger plane ever to take to the skies.
Airbus hopes the superjumbo will break Boeing’s stranglehold on the long-range, high capacity market, which Boeing has long dominated with its 747.
The A3XX is costing Airbus an estimated $12 billion or more to develop.
Airbus presently doesn’t make a jetliner big enough to compete with Boeing’s 416-seat 747-400. The Singapore deal will give it greater comfort in moving ahead with its expensive A3XX venture.
Airbus has already received orders for 22 of the megaplanes from Air France, New York-based International Lease Finance Corp., and Emirates Airlines of the United Arab Emirates.
Airbus’ first planned model, the A3XX-100, will seat 555 passengers. The aircraft is scheduled to make its first flight in 2004 and enter service near the end of 2005.
Singapore Airlines said it plans to deploy the A3XX on routes to London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney.
Engineers for Seattle-based Boeing spent more than a year in the mid-1990s studying whether the company should build its own all-new superjumbo, but dropped the plan after deeming it impractical.
Airbus Industrie is based in Toulouse, France. It is a co-owned by the European Aeronautic Defense &Space Co. and Britain’s BAE Systems.
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