Dubai-based Emirates airline announced Tuesday it has ordered another 32 A380 superjumbo jets from Airbus, giving the European planemaker a boost as it strives to make financial gains on its giant plane.
The latest order, with a list price of $11.5 billion, means Emirates has now signed up for a total of 90 A380s. It said the planes would be delivered by 2017.
"This is the single largest 380 order ever," Airbus CEO Tom Enders said after the deal was signed at the Berlin Air Show. He described the order as a "sign of confidence in the 380 and in Airbus."
Emirates received its first A380 in July 2008 and now has 10 of the planes. It already had 58 on order.
The order "affirms Emirates' strategy to become a world leading carrier and to further establish Dubai as a central gateway to worldwide air travel," said Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Airbus' chief operating officer, John Leahy, said the company now has 234 firm orders for the superjumbo, with 30 planes already delivered and a total of 17 customers.
He did not say how many more orders Airbus might receive this year, but said he is "in negotiations with several airlines around the world" on A380s.
Early A380 orders were hit by lengthy delays. Airbus has been struggling to ramp up production of the A380 because the cabins of the hulking plane require greater customization than other plane models.
Leahy said Airbus managers are "targeting to break even by 2015" on the project.
He was cautious about future prospects for a stretched version of the plane, although he said airlines have expressed an interest.
"We have to ramp up production on this airplane; it is clearly more complex to build than we had anticipated," he said.
"Let's get the airplane ramped up to the level we had originally talked about, let's get the cost of building the airplane down to the level we had originally talked about, and then the nice logical third step would be let's talk about further developments," Leahy added.
Lufthansa CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber, whose airline showed off its first A380 in Berlin, said of Emirates' move: "It's a big, big order that they've announced here."
"If you ask me about the magnitude, I have to say, that it is to many of us a miracle," he said. "Emirates has already now with a relatively small home market more seats on intercontinental operations than Air France and British Airways together."
Later Tuesday, Airbus announced a separate order from TAM of Brazil for 20 of its A320 single-aisle jets and five more of the A350 XWB widebody planes that the company is developing — an order with a catalog value of $2.9 billion.
Deliveries of the A320s will start in 2014 and the A350s are slated to start arriving in 2016.
TAM already has 44 A320s and 22 A350s on order.
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