Andrew Doyle/BERLIN

The Airbus Industrie partners have been forced to delay a decision on the commercial launch of the A3XX for a second time in two weeks after failing to resolve remaining issues on the programme. At the same time, two more airlines have declared an interest in the aircraft.

Final talks over terms for the establishment of the Airbus Integrated Company (AIC) are going on in parallel. Although these are not directly tied to the A3XX approval, the EADS partners have signalled their intention to reach agreement on both questions at the same time.

Wrangling over the final assembly site, workshare and the valuation of BAE Systems 20% stake in Airbus are three of the key issues.

BAE Systems maintains that the two decisions "are not linked", pointing out that responsibility for granting authority to offer the A3XX rests with the Airbus supervisory board, whereas the AIC talks are going on at partner level.

The failure of the supervisory board to convene at the Berlin air show on 8 June, where it had been due to approve the A3XX commercial launch, came as an embarrassment to the EADS founders, as they had revealed the planned meeting two weeks earlier.

The four Airbus partners say the supervisory board would take a decision on the authority to offer "shortly", while they were "continuing to work towards an agreement in parallel that will enable the creation of the AIC. On both these decisions there are outstanding issues," the partners conclude.

EADS, due to be formally established next month from the merger of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Aerospatiale Matra and CASA, says the sticking points are "nothing fundamental", and "basically we agree on both issues but it's a question of procedure".

Agreement on the AIC and A3XXis expected in the next few weeks as EADS needs to get both issues resolved ahead of its planned partial flotation on 10 July.

Meanwhile, EADS sources confirm that the commercial criteria set by the Airbus supervisory board for the A3XX ATO have essentially been met, with ILFC and Virgin Atlantic Airways adding their names to Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Air France, which have already announced "expressions of interest" in the aircraft. ILFC says it is interested in six aircraft and Virgin, which has also declared an interest in the rival Boeing 747X, saying it is looking for 10, possibly buying both types.

Emirates boss Maurice Flanagan added his voice in support of the A3XX in a letter to London's Evening Standard newspaper last week. "With world passenger numbers growing at 5% a year, I don't know what other airlines are waiting for. Take-off and landing slots at major airports will continue to be tight and we will need bigger aircraft," he says.

Airbus chief Noel Forgeard told a meeting of the Airbus ministers in Berlin last week that eight airlines had expressed their intention to buy more than 50 aircraft.

Source: Flight International