Airbus beats rival Boeing to long-range aircraft order after it meets performance and delivery requirements

Airbus has won a key battle with Boeing in the long-range airliner stakes by securing a launch order from Qatar Airways for a new version of the A340-600 as part of a $5.1 billion deal for 20 Airbuses, plus 14 options.

The Gulf airline selected the extended range model over the Boeing 777-300ER after a hard-fought campaign by the two rivals, while fellow Gulf carrier Emirates confirmed a long-expected deal for both types (Flight International, 27 May - 2 June).

Qatar Airways has placed firm orders for two of the high gross weight (HGW) A340-600s along with eight options, for delivery from early 2006. The deal for the Rolls-Royce Trent 500-powered widebodies also includes 14 more General Electric CF6-80C2-powered A330-200/300s (plus six options), and two International Aero Engines V2500-powered A321-200s, as well as a lease deal with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) for two A330-200s.

Emirates' order for 18 HGW -600s was placed as part of its massive $12.5 billion Airbus deal that included 21 more A380s and two A340-500s. It is not due to receive its -600HGWs until June 2007. Dubai-based Emirates also signed lease deals valued at $6.5 billion for 26 777-300ERs - 14 from GECAS and 12 from International Lease Finance - with deliveries beginning in March 2005.

The new A340 features an 8,000kg (17,600lb) increase in maximum take-off weight to boost range by "several hundred miles" over the current 368,000kg MTOW version, says Airbus, which can fly 14,150km (7,650nm). The -600HGW was evaluated by Qatar Airways along with the smaller A340-500 and 777-200LR/300ER. Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says that the airline was close to a 777 order, but opted for the A340-600 as it was best able to meet Qatar's demanding performance requirements, and Airbus agreed to meet the airline's early 2006 delivery target. Al Baker says that the -600s will be flown to eastern US destinations like New York and some south-east Asian cities.

The new deals, combined with existing orders (including two A380s), will increase Qatar's all-Airbus passenger fleet from 24 aircraft (plus 10 orders) to around 60 by the end of the decade. The two year-old A380 deal - memorandum of understanding - is thought to have been firmed up as part of the new deal.

Source: Flight International