Dubai carrier closes in on deals to swap out parts of existing Airbus and Boeing fleets for A350s and 777-200LRs

Emirates is in negotiations with Airbus and Boeing about a complex, multi-billion dollar deal for A350s and 777-200LRs, which would involve trade-in deals for the carrier's existing A340-500s and older 777s. The massive deal, which is expected to include up to 50 A350s, also forms part of a huge raft of sales for the new twinjet that Airbus expects to unveil at next month's Paris air show.

Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy is confidently predicting that he will announce "triple digit orders" for the A350 at next month's Paris air show. "It will be at least 100, maybe substantially more than that," he says, adding that deals will be signed with at least "four customers".

Although Airbus declines to specify the identity of A350 customers, according to industry sources the Emirates contract will form the major portion of the sales. It could involve a complex contra-deal whereby Airbus, or an agent of the manufacturer, would take Boeing 777-200ERs in part exchange. The rapidly expanding Dubai-based carrier is also known to be discussing a similar arrangement with Boeing under which its A340-500s would be exchanged for an order for the -500's ultra-long- range rival, the 777-200LR.

Leahy denies that Airbus would have any interest in following Boeing's policy of negotiating part-exchange deals that involve the trade-in of rival equipment.

Another airline to sign up will be US Airways, which has obtained a $250 million incentive loan from Airbus in exchange for a commitment to acquire up to 20 A350s for delivery from 2011 to 2013. The financially troubled carrier confirmed that it will be an A350 launch customer last week when it finalised its merger with America West. It holds outstanding orders for 10 A330-200s, which are believed to have been dropped as part of the deal, and the airline has deferred delivery of its remaining A320 orders (see story below).

Two lessors are also expected to sign up for the A350 at Paris – GE Capital Aviation Services and International Lease Finance.

Although disappointed by recent A350 campaign losses to the 787 at Air Canada and Northwest Airlines, Leahy believes the door could still be open in other contests that appear to have swung Boeing's way, including the multi-million dollar 777/787 selection by Air India. Airbus is writing an official letter to the Indian carrier seeking a review of the Boeing deal on the grounds that the A350 was excluded from the original evaluation.


Source: Flight International