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USAir and Emirates boost Airbus

Ramon Lopez/Washington DC and Max Kingsley-Jones/London

Airbus Industrie has won two significant orders, securing agreements with USAir for up to 400 single-aisle aircraft and with Emirates for as many as 23 A330-200s. Both deals were won in the face of fierce competition from Boeing and McDonnell Douglas.

USAir's massive deal includes firm orders for 120 A319s, A320s and A321s, plus an additional 120 orders to be reconfirmed at a later date, and 160 options. The split between the various models will be dependent on market conditions at the time that final delivery schedules are set.

The first six aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 1997, with 22, 29 and 37 units following in 1998, 1999 and 2000, respectively. Thereafter, 48 aircraft would be delivered to USAir annually until the orders are completed in around 2004. A firm schedule for the options has not been finalised. The engine selection has not been made, and USAir says that it is about to enter into negotiations with the vendors.

The airline's decision to standardise on an all-Airbus narrowbody fleet comes as part of its efforts to modernise and rationalise its complex fleet mix, which includes seven different types. The A320 family will replace 64 Boeing 737-200s, 62 MDC DC-9-30s, 31 MD-80s, 15 Fokker F28s and 40 Fokker 100s, now operated by USAir. The airline is also evaluating the A330 and Boeing 777 to replace its 12 767-200ERs on long-haul services, with up to 20 aircraft expected to be ordered.

USAir notes that the deal is "dependent upon achieving a competitive cost structure" and, thus, hinges on its ability to win additional concessions from pilots, cabin crew and mechanics. USAir is targeting $2.5 billion in labour concessions over the next five years. The order is also subject to approval from USAir's directors, and it is unclear when management will put the matter before a board, which includes three British Airways officials. USAir is trying to force BA to sell its 24.6% stake.

The list price for the 400 aircraft would top $12 billion, but neither party announced the value of the deal. An informed source says that Airbus Industrie offered substantial discounts to win another battle against Boeing and McDonnell Douglas (MDC) in the pivotal North American market. Also considered by USAir were the Boeing 737 600/700/800 and the MD-95.

Meanwhile, Emirates has switched back to Airbus for its next round of aircraft acquisitions, with an order for up to 23 A330-200s, including seven options, to replace its fleet of A300s and A310s, which are being traded back to Airbus.

The selection of Airbus as vendor for the new aircraft is a coup for the Europeans, which, having been the incumbent supplier to Emirates since the carrier's inception, lost out to Boeing and its 777 in the previous sales campaign. For the latest deal, Boeing had been offering a mix of 767-300ERs and 757s (Flight International, 3 - 9 July).

Emirates will receive the A330s between January 1999 and mid-2002, and they will be operated on services from Dubai to Europe, Southeast Asia and South Africa. The engine selection has not been made, but a decision is expected soon. Although, its existing Airbuses are powered by the General Electric CF6-80C2, the airline selected the Rolls-Royce Trent to power its new fleet of Boeing 777s.

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