Airbus notched up firm orders for a further 55 examples of its now-flying A350 XWB airliner yesterday here in Paris, with Air France-KLM and Singapore Airlines signing major deals. The European airframer now has 668 firm orders for the A350. And, for good measure, Airbus also managed yesterday to close a major fleet-upgrade MoU with Sri Lankan Airlines.
The Air France-KLM Group signed for 25 firm and 25 optioned Airbus A350-900s, marking the first time a joint order has been placed by the group. Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, firmed up an order for 30 A350-1000s, with 20 options that can be converted to firm orders for either the -900 or -1000 model. Being the third order placed by the airline for XWBs, it takes its firm orders with Airbus’s new widebody to 70. “We are pleased to announce this latest order…as the A350 XWB flight test campaign begins,” said John Leahy, Airbus COO-customers.
The $7.5-billion Air France/KLM order had been much delayed because of a long-running dispute over who would maintain the Rolls-Royce engines. Rolls-Royce, the sole engine supplier on the A350, wants airlines to sign up for its TotalCare maintenance package, but Air France, which has never ordered R-R engines for its widebodies, insisted on being able to carry out its own maintenance and be free to outsource it through its vast Air France Industries maintenance network.
KLM president and CEO Peter Hartman said the joint order with Air France kicked off a “new chapter for the group. This aircraft introduces major environmental advances and will contribute to our ambitious targets for noise and carbon reduction.”
Sri Lankan’s MoU is for complete replacement of its fleet of A330-200s and A340-200s with A330-300s and A350-900s. John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer-customers, said the deal would be firmed up “within a month.” In the $2.6 billion sale, Sri Lankan will purchase six Airbus A330-300s and four A350-900s directly from Airbus and will lease a further three A350s. Deliveries of the A330s will begin in October 2014 and of the A350s in 2017. The A340s would, said Sri Lankan CEO Kapila Chandrasena, be returned to the lessor as the new aircraft arrived.