Airbus managed to revive A380 sales during the Paris air show as Irish-based asset management company Doric Lease tentatively signed for 20 of the double-deck type.
Its agreement, once firmed, will bring to 282 the number of A380s ordered and give a lift to a programme which had not logged a sale in six months, since Singapore Airlines signed for five last December.
Doric is intending to take delivery of the aircraft from 2016 and make an engine selection later this year.
Chief Mark Lapidus believes the lessor can "explain" the aircraft to potential operators and help them to "cross the line" into A380 operations. Doric already has experience with the A380, having 18 of the type under management.
"The economics of this aircraft are currently unbeatable," says Lapidus. "If anything, we're probably under-ordering."
Carriers have inquired about the A380 with Doric, he adds, and the lessor says there is "pent-up demand" for the aircraft. He sees growth in routes operated by aircraft with over 400 seats, and adds: "These aircraft create new passenger traffic."
Doric is in talks with "two or three" customers regarding its planned order. Lapidus says the lessor has a list of potential clients, and says: "This is why we may not have enough aircraft."
He explains that Doric will offer the A380s with minimum reconfiguration costs in all-economy seating layouts downstairs and premium cabins in the upper decks.
"The perception in the industry is that reconfiguration costs are expensive, but through our order we aim to minimise them," he says.
Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy says the Doric agreement is a new way for the airframer to market the aircraft, but he is unconcerned that the lessor might effectively cannibalise Airbus's own sales effort.
"We have lessors in the other product categories," he says. "We see this as being no different."
Although the Doric deal has yet to be finalised, Airbus secured firm orders for 241 aircraft during the Paris air show including 170 A320-family twinjets and 71 long-haul airframes. It values these orders at $39 billion.
It landed a new order for 10 A350-1000s from United Airlines - which also converted 25 previous A350-900s to the larger variant - and firmed previous commitments from Air France-KLM and Singapore Airlines for 55 A350-900s.
SriLankan Airlines' order for six A330s completed the widebody total.
Orders in the single-aisle sector comprised 70 A320neos and 30 A320s for Lufthansa, firming a previously-disclosed commitment, and 50 more A320neos for International Lease Finance. US budget carrier Spirit Airlines ordered 20 A321s.
Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier says the airframer is "facing slot availability [constraints] very soon" on the baseline A320 programme as it prepares to begin the transition to the A320neo.
"We're now very close to having filled the order book for [the A320]," he says. Alongside the firm orders for 50 baseline A320s at the show, Airbus obtained commitments from EasyJet for 35 - part of a broader pact which will also include 100 A320neos.
Leahy says that finding slots for new customers on the single-aisle programme is becoming "very hard", indicating that customer wanting a small number of A320neos would probably have to wait until 2020 but that the airframer might be able to "move a few [slots] around" to accommodate a more substantial order.
Asian lessor Hong Kong Aviation Capital has reached a preliminary agreement to take 60 A320neos. Leahy says the A320neo family is maintaining a 60% market share, adding: "That's a corner I want to stay boxed into."
Doric's A380 pact was one of two long-haul commitments at the show, the other coming from SriLankan for four A350-900s. SriLankan is also to lease three other A350-900s.