American’s order for 260 A320s is a landmark deal for Airbus, as it represents Toulouse’s first narrowbody deal ever with the Iconic US carrier. It also marks the first Airbus order from American for some two decades – in 1986 it was launch customer for the A300-600R widebody.
But the A320 deal is also a coup for Europe from an airline that has often thought a bit differently about fleet acquisitions. In the 1960s it was the launch customer for the UK-built BAC One-Eleven 400 short-haul jet (above), and 20 years later it ordered the Fokker 100.
But intriguingly, I recently learnt that Toulouse missed out on landing an American Airlines order back in the days of the Caravelle. Speaking to Sud Aviation and Airbus legend Roger Beteille for a forthcoming article on the Caravelle, he told me that there was a possibility of a sale to American during Sud’s marketing tie-up with Douglas Aircraft in the early 1960s.
Beteille says that Sud made “the crucial mistake” of rejecting a Douglas suggestion, made at the request of American, to broaden the fuselage section to increase luggage capacity. That decision ultimately stunted the Caravelle’s sales potential and left the door open to the US manufacturers who went on to enjoy huge sales success for more than a generation.
American’s A300-600 acquisition, of course, would lead to the dreadful 2001 AA587 New York crash after a tailfin failure caused when the aircraft was apparently mishandled when flying through wake turbulence. Clearly this deal shows that both sides have now moved on from that tragedy.
Anyway, well done Airbus on this landmark A320 family deal. By my reckoning, that leaves just Delta as the airline that (in its own right) has never ordered Airbus single-aisles (or any type of Airbus, for that matter). Well this task should be easier for Airbus now, after Atlanta became an A320 operator through the take-over of Northwest!