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Abu Dhabi's Etihad announces $7 billion Airbus plane purchase

European aircraft maker Airbus stole the show on the second day of Farnborough International Tuesday with a 36-plane deal worth $7 billion from Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.

The order, which includes four of the superjumbo A380 models, eclipsed a deal announced by US giant Boeing on Monday with Dubai's Emirates for four 777-300ERs and options on nine more in a deal worth $2.96 billion.

The two aerospace giants have been trading blows at the Farnborough air show near London this week, a traditional battleground for aviation companies going head-to-head for orders and publicity.

But it was Airbus that took the limelight with the deal with Etihad, the national airline of the UAE which was started barely eight months ago.

The order underscored a race by oil-rich Middle East states to inject their petro-dollars into other industries such as travel and tourism.

In addition to the four A380s, the deal includes four A340-600s, four A340-500s and 12 A330-200s. Deliveries of the A330-200 and A340-500 planes will begin in 2006 and the A340-600s and the A380s in 2007, according to Airbus.

The 550-seat A380 superjumbo will be the world's largest airliner, eclipsing Boeing's 747. Before Tuesday Airbus already had 129 orders for the A380, which is due to enter service in 2006.

Boeing meanwhile is pinning its hopes on the 7E7, a midsize jet it says is 20 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable aircraft in its class, with the long-haul range of a larger aircraft.

Etihad Airways said in a statement that the type of aircraft covered by the 12 additional options had not yet been decided.

Ethihad chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al-Nahyan said his airline was considering using the new Airbus A380 superjumbo on routes to China, the rest of Asia and Europe.

"We have ... been in intensive discussions about our future craft needs with both Boeing and Airbus in which we considered a whole range of aircraft types," he said.

Beirut,08 09 2004
Redaction
The Daily Star
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