Airbus signs deal with Northwest

Airbus Industrie, the European plane-making consortium, yesterday stepped up the competition with its arch rival Boeing by confirming an agreement worth up to $2bn (pounds 1.25bn) to sell 50 A319 aircraft to Northwest Airlines.

The memorandum of understanding also includes an option to buy a further 100 of the twin-engined narrow-bodied planes, which have 125 seats. The first deliveries should start in 1999 and continue until 2003. The A319 is the smallest version of the single-aisle A320 family, a direct competitor to Boeing's revised 737. Northwest already has a fleet of 50 A320s and has ordered a further 20 of the planes for delivery in 1998 and 1999.