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Fri 2 Mar 2012 03:23 PM

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Airbus eyes new A380 customers in Middle East

European plane maker keen to add to regional customers including Emirates, Etihad

Airbus eyes new A380 customers in Middle East
An Airbus A380 plane lands at Le Bourget airport near Paris.

Airbus, the world’s biggest
commercial planemaker, has said it is negotiating with two new potential
Middle East customers to sell the A380 superjumbo.

The delivery
schedule of the planes is a determining factor for the deal, Habib
Fekih, Airbus’s president for the Middle East, said in an interview.

company’s commercial customers in the region are Emirates, the world’s
largest carrier by international traffic and the biggest operator of the
aircraft, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad and Doha-based Qatar Airways.

The Middle
East has become the main sales region for the A380, with Emirates having
ordered 90 in total and Qatar Air and Etihad a combined 20. Emirates,
which already operates 20 of the double-decker aircraft, is marketing
its location as a multi- directional hub in Dubai that can connect any
two points in the world with an A380 with just one stopover.

Toulouse, France-based planemaker forecasts demand for 50 to 100 plane
orders from Middle Eastern carriers this year, predominantly for
narrow-body aircraft to replace ageing fleets, according to Fekih. This
year has “good prospects,” even if it looks quieter in terms of regional
orders than 2011, which was an “exceptional year”, he said.

“The region
ordered a lot of wide-bodies in the last few years so I believe orders
for wide-bodies will be lower than last years,” said Fekih. “On the
other hand, we have a lot of airlines replacing their A320s, or what we
call the single-aisle fleets, because those were delivered in the early

that need to replace narrow-body planes include, Etihad, Egypt Air and
Tunisair, the executive said, adding that many A320 fleets have been in
operation for 20 years.

Additionally, there could be “top ups” for five or 10 wide-body aircraft
from Gulf carriers, though large individual orders are more likely to
come from other carriers.

“We have Sri
Lanka, Pakistan, North Africa, I think Ethiopia, these are the sort of
people where there’s very good traffic growth and there’s possibility
for orders,” he said. “There are airlines that need to replace their
wide-bodies and narrow-bodies so consequently we can expect orders from
there. It’s a prospect.”

In total,
the manufacturer is in “serious negotiations” with ten regional
customers for potential orders of different aircraft sizes, he said.

Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has ordered one A380 as a
private jet. Other airlines in the Middle East that operate long-haul
routes include Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Gulf

By building
regional hubs, Gulf carriers are winning long- haul passengers from
European airlines Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa with
Emirates carrying 31.4 million passengers during its 2010-11 financial

As airlines in the region expand their global networks and invest
heavily in growing their fleets, Airbus won 150 orders from the Middle
East last year.

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