Airbus kept its steadily advancing order train rolling on the third day of the Dubai Airshow with a pair of modest, but nonetheless significant, announcements involving models ranging from the single-aisle A320 to the A380 superjumbo.
The first deal involved a firm order for a pair of high-density A380s from Air Austral of Reunion Island. Plans call for the airplanes to seat 840 passengers in its two floors of 10-abreast seating, making Air Austral the first carrier in the world to opt for an all-economy A380 cabin configuration.
“Air Austral opens a new chapter for A380 operations,” said Airbus COO for customers John Leahy. “It will operate the A380 with the lowest fuel cost and emissions per passenger of any aircraft available today.”
Leahy noted that many 777s and 747s fly with 10-abreast cabin configurations, and that the same layout in the wider A380 will obviously make for a more comfortable travel experience. For Air Austral, the long-haul, high-density airplanes stand to deliver the cheapest seat-mile costs in the business.
“We are convinced that the future of air transport will be lower fares,” said Air Austral president Gerard Etheve. “We needed a low-cost [instrument] for low fares. The A380 is the answer to the problem.”
Air Austral plans to fly the airplanes directly between Paris and St. Denis, La Reunion, starting in 2014. Future applications could involve flights to the Caribbean supported by potential future deliveries. Air Austral has chosen Engine Alliance to power the airplanes with the partnership’s GP7200s.
Airbus’s other commercial announcement on Tuesday morning involved Nepal Airlines, which signed an MOU covering a single A330-200 and an A320. The airline plans to deploy the airplanes on international services to Japan and will for the first time connect Nepal to Europe with direct flights.
Plans call for the two-class A330s to fly on routes to Europe and North Asia and plan an instrumental role in developing Nepal’s tourism industry, particularly as the country prepares for its “Visit Nepal 2011” tourism campaign. The airline plans to deploy the dual-class A320 on regional routes and operate as far as the Middle East and in Southeast Asia.
Nepal Airlines chairman Sugat Ratna Kansakar said that tourism accounts for just 2.3 percent of Nepal’s GDP, making it ripe for development. “The A330 and A320 will open Nepal’s doors to the world,” said Airbus’s Leahy. “Aviation is a lifeline and a key economic driver to the long-term prosperity of a land-locked mountainous country like Nepal.”