High fives with $3bn Kingfisher order

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Operational for just five weeks, Indian start-up Kingfisher Airlines yesterday confirmed the Flight Daily News story by placing a $3 billion Airbus order, including five A380 superjumbos.

The "high fives" did not end there. The airline, subsidiary of the UB drinks company, also ordered five A350-800s and five A330-200s.

It then went on to ink a deal with Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise (SALE) for the purchase and leaseback of three Airbus A319s. Powered by IAE V2500 engines, the aircraft will be delivered new from Airbus in December 2005 and January 2006 and will be leased back to the airline on a long-term basis

Airbus also notched up 10 further sales of the A350 to GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), six A318s to Air Cairo and eight A320s to Tiger Airways.

Total value of the day's signings amounted to more than $5 billion and took Kingfisher's business at the show to well in excess of $20 billion.

Kingfisher, which began domestic operations just over a month ago, plans to use the widebodies on international routes, targeting New York and other US destinations in the first place.

Dr Vijay Mallya, chairman of Kingfisher parent UB Group, said: "In this business I have learned that one needs to take long-term decisions. We will have an additional hundred million consuming class people [in India] by 2010.

"This is a significant transaction in excess of $3 billion but we have the conviction to do it and do it with a great deal of confidence. If you are looking five years out, it really is a no-brainer to fill an A380."

The business case for the A380 was based on configuring the aircraft for 490 people in three classes, he said.

No decision has been taken yet on the choice of engine for any of the Airbus widebodies.

Kingfisher intends to issue an initial public offering (IPO) and use the revenue partly to finance its rapid expansion.

Earlier yesterday, GECAS signed a letter of intent for a firm order of 10 A350s, subject to industrial launch which is expected in September.

The $1.6 billion deal is for the A350-800 but GECAS has the right to switch some orders to the larger -900 model.

In other commercial developments, Singapore-based low cost carrier Tiger Airways said it would acquire a further eight Airbus A320 aircraft. Another low cost carrier Air Cairo said it was finalising details for the acquisition of six Airbus A318s.

Airbus president and chief executive Noel Forgeard said that Kingfisher's consistently full flights and the sale were "the result of the Indian government's wisdom in liberalizing air transport."