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SYDNEY, June 2 (AFP) - European aircraft consortium
Airbus Industrie said Friday it was close to securing
50 firm orders from five airlines for its planned A3XX
Singapore Airlines, Air France and Emirates were keen
on purchasing the new A3XX and two more would be
announced within the next fortnight, said senior
vice president John Leahy.
Qantas Airways and Virgin Atlantic are hot contenders.
"We expect to see 40 to 50 firm orders with at least
five airlines as launch customers," he said in Sydney.
"Emirates and Singapore Airlines would like to see the
aircraft in their fleets, Air France wants at least
10, and others will be announcing their intentions
over the next two weeks.
"I would be very pleased if Qantas would be a launch
customer. They have helped us a lot in the design of
Qantas' ageing fleet has recently been plagued by a
string of mishaps, including the collapse of landing
gear on one of its jets in Rome last month.
The airline has confirmed that senior executives are
studying proposals from Airbus and Boeing Co. to
develop its fleet, but refused to confirm whether the
A3XX was under consideration.
A spokeswoman Friday would not say whether the airline
was planning any major announcements.
Virgin confirmed it was considering the idea earlier
this week. Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways also
said it was interested.
Leahy said about 50 percent of the aircraft were
expected to be operating in the Asia-Pacific region
with Sydney being one of the first airports the new
plane would fly in to.
Airbus has spent four years in research on the A3XX
and says it would be able to carry 555 passengers
non-stop up to 14,150 kilometers (8,800 miles).
Boeing's planned 747X Stretch would seat 504
passengers and fly 14,450 kilometres. Both aircraft
makers promise delivery around the second half of
Leahy said the French-German Airbus was confident it
could maintain market share over Boeing. It currently
boasts 54 percent of the market.
"That's where we intend to stay, sharing our market
50/50 with our competition from the US," he said,
adding that Boeing were "fantastic planes but they're
"They will eventually come up with a new generation
but for the next 20 years we believe that this
aircraft (the A3XX) will be the premium in the
The twin-deck A3XX will have wider aises and a leisure
Leahy described the layout as "like two wide bodies
sitting on top of each other with passenger amenities
down below, and that could be a lounge, a piano
bar, duty free shopping, exercise facilities, a
He said several Asian airlines were in discussions
with Airbus about having a casino installed.
Other proposed facilities are broadband Internet
accessible from every seat, private bedrooms, and
seats which can swivel around.
"We offer an option to have just cargo down there
without the amenities but I'm suggesting to the
world's airlines that they don't do that," Leahy said.
"You will walk into the plane and it will be
reminiscent of a cruise ship."
It is expected to operate out of about 11 airports
around the world, including Sydney, Hong Kong, Paris,
London and Los Angeles.
The Airbus consortium will hold a supervisory council
meeting in Berlin between June 6 and 12 to decide
whether to develop the A3XX.
A spokesman for the Lagardere group, which has an
indirect shareholding in Airbus, has said that the
fact a "decision-taking" meeting has been scheduled
-- and in Berlin during the Berlin air show -- sends
"a strong signal" in favor of a commitment to the
12-billion-dollar development of the A3XX.