Dubai Air Show

Kuwait lessor takes Airbuses

 - December 11, 2006, 6:08 AM

Airbus took some of the sting out of its rival Boeing’s blockbuster sales announcement yesterday with a pair of significant orders of its own for A350s and A320s.

The first, from Kuwaiti leasing company Alafco, involved a firm order for 12 of Airbus’ A350-800s, due for first delivery in 2012. More unexpectedly, Airbus followed that conversion of a previously announced commitment with a firm order for six A320s from Jazeera Airways, the new low-fare airline that began operations less than a month ago from Kuwait International Airport.

Now flying two of the 165-seat, single-class-configured narrowbodies to Amman, Bahrain, Damascus, Beirut and Dubai, the Middle East’s first privately owned airline plans to take another two of the airplanes next summer. By the time it accepts delivery of this latest order, it will have a uniform fleet of 10.

Airbus president and CEO Gustav Humbert and Jazeera chairman Marwan Boodai signed the firm order just an hour before the announcement right here at the show. “Mr. Boodai is fresh out of the oven,” joked Humbert in reference to the sudden nature of the announcement.

Airbus’ A350, meanwhile, gained some much needed traction in the Middle East with the Alafco deal, first disclosed during June’s Paris Air Show. Alafco chairman Ahmad Al Zabin called the contract, which includes options for six more airplanes, a confirmation of his company’s intention to grow “to a meaningful size.” Although he said he hadn’t yet signed a lessee, he remarked “we are talking to airlines about it.” Airbus’ schedules call for deliveries to start in the third quarter of 2012.

With the order, Alafco becomes the first leasing company to sign for the A350. “Leasing companies are always a good pointer to success, since their business is built around anticipating airline needs,” said Humbert.