Airbus $50 billion Dubai jet deal will be boost to Mobile assembly line

Airbus Feature
The Airbus 320 family or aircraft are lifting sales for the company and have resulted in its biggest commercial jet deal ever. (Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg)

Airbus SE announced the biggest commercial-plane transaction in its history, securing an order for single-aisle aircraft valued at nearly $50 billion at the Dubai Air Show, outdoing Boeing Co.s own $20 billion mega-deal.

Wednesday’s pact for 430 A320neo planes with U.S. investor Indigo Partners marked a turnaround for Airbus at the Gulf expo, where it had been trailing its rival. It’s also a crowning achievement for sales chief John Leahy, who is set to retire after a career in which he has struck deals for more than 16,000 jets and lifted the European plane-maker into a duopoly position with Boeing.

For Indigo Partners, led by Bill Franke, the Airbus accord provides upgraded narrow-body aircraft to boost the fleets of low-cost carriers from Denver to Budapest. The planes will go to four companies in Indigo’s investment portfolio: Frontier Airlines, Mexico’s Volaris, East European operator Wizz Air Holdings Plc and Chile’s JetSmart, which began operating this year.

The deal features 273 A320neo jets together with 157 of the larger A321neo variant and is worth $49.5 billion before customary discounts, Airbus said. Leahy, 67, called the transaction “remarkable,” while Franke, 80, who co-founded Indigo in 2002, said it underscores his confidence in the A320 and the bargain fares, no-frills travel model he helped develop.

Airbus makes the A320 family at different sites around the world, including its main factory in Toulouse, France, as well as in Hamburg, Germany. The company also builds the plane at an assembly line in China, and has recently pushed into the U.S. with a plant in Mobile.

Boeing retort

Boeing recovered some ground with the sale of 175 737 Max planes, the A320’s main competitor, to FlyDubai, a deal big enough to have dominated most air shows.

While that order will come as an irritation for Airbus, with the airline having been expected to split it between the two manufacturers, the Toulouse, France-based company wasn’t done at the Dubai event. It went on to announce EgyptAir Airlines Co. as the operator of 15 A320neos previously ordered by leasing firm AerCap Holdings NV.

The Indigo deal more than doubles Airbus’s previous order book for the year, which stood at about 290 aircraft as of Oct. 31, pushes the plane-maker’s backlog above 7,000 jets and reverses expectations that orders will trail deliveries in 2017.

The haul will help Airbus catch up to Boeing in the order tally this year, with the European plane-maker having chalked up 343 contracts at the end of October, compared with 690 for its Chicago-based rival as of Nov. 7. The order also trumps a 2015 deal for 250 single-aisle jets worth $27 billion by Indian budget carrier IndiGo. The two companies aren’t related.

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Republished with permission from the Alabama NewsCenter.