Karen Walker

Airbus Industrie has won an order estimated to be worth $1.5 billion from Belgian flag-carrier Sabena for a fleet of 34 new A320 family aircraft.

Sabena's decision comes after a fierce competition between Airbus, offering A319s, A320s and A321s, and Boeing, offering new-generation 737s.

Sabena says it has not yet decided on an engine where the choice is between the CFM Inter-national CFM56-5 and the International Aero Engines V2500.

Aircraft deliveries will start in January 1999 and take three years, says Sabena.

Sabena's board of directors has described the Airbus offer as "-the best option to meet Sabena's economical and commer-cial objectives."

The order - the carrier's largest ever - is for 26 A319s, five A320s, and three A321s.

The new aircraft will not only expand Sabena's fleet, but also enable it to meet new international noise restrictions by replacing ageing aircraft.


The order is part of Sabena's Horizon '98 plan to modernise and simplify its fleet by year 2000.

One unusual aspect of the deal is that Sabena has asked Airbus to offer the possibility of its being concluded in the European currency, the Euro, if the airline feels this would be advantageous.

"Making offers in Euros is in line with Airbus' flexibility, so we are going to work towards that," comments Airbus.

One key factor in Airbus' success in clinching the deal was its ability to appease Sabena's unions.

There had been concern about job losses if main-tenance work on the Airbus aircraft had been farmed out to Shannon Aerospace, the Irish maintenance joint venture between Swissair and Lufthansa.

But shortly before the order decision, Swissair told the unions it was willing to put some Airbus overhaul work into Sabena Technics' hands in Brussels.

Source: Flight Daily News