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Airbus secures $3bn orders to update fleets

Airbus yesterday revealed a batch of orders for up to 38 planes estimated to be worth around $3bn (pounds 1.9bn), providing further evidence of the recovery in the market for civil aircraft as carriers replace outdated fleets.

On the second day of the Farnborough Airshow, the European plane-making consortium revealed its first order with the fast-growing South Korean carrier, Asiana Airlines, for 18 of the A321 medium-haul planes to operate on domestic routes. The consortium refused to put a value on the order, which will run until 2005, though it is thought to be worth up to $1bn (pounds 650m).

The news confirms Airbus's increasing success in attracting customers from the Far East,forecast to see a massive air travel increase into the next century.

Another deal announced yesterday was to supply Hong-Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways with a further three long-haul A340-300s. Earlier this year Airbus secured a $1.5bn (pounds 1bn) order to supply 30 A320 aircraft to China.

On top of the Asian orders, Airbus said Federal Express, the US cargo delivery giant, was buying 11 A300/600s to add to its 25 strong fleet already in service with the company. But confusion surrounded news of an option by Condor, the German charter airline, to buy 12 A320s. Condor denied it had made a commitment, though Airbus claimed it had signed a memorandum of understanding, the precursor to a firm deal, and described current talks as ''serious''.

The news followed Monday's announcement by Boeing of orders worth more than $6bn. Airbus had planned to reveal its orders directly after Boeing, but had to delay a news conference when the floor of the Farnborough press centre collapsed.

Meanwhile, the row between the two manufacturers continued over whether Airbus's plan for a massive ''super-jumbo'', the A3XX, could be viable. Boeing had claimed demand from the carriers market for airliners with more than 500 seats was one-third of that anticipated by Airbus.

Yesterday it emerged that British Airways has backed Airbus's development work. BA, which is talking to Airbus and Boeing, is understood to view a 600-seater plane as ''the ideal size''.