Airbus wins billion-dollar plane order from United

AIRBUS Industrie, the pan-European consortium that includes British Aerospace, has won orders and options for 100 A320 aircraft from United Airlines in a deal that could be worth billions of dollars and safeguard thousands of jobs.

The order, for 50 leased A320s and options on a further 50, comes as airlines around the world are cutting back on procurement. The first of the aircraft will be delivered in November 1993, but details on the scheduling of the rest of the planes were not immediately available. United said that it had chosen International Aero Engines' V2500 engine to power the A320s. Rolls-Royce is a large partner in the IAE consortium and the UK stands to gain about a third of that work.

A single A320 costs about dollars 45m, but both Airbus and United declined to comment on the value of their deal. The order was hotly contested, with both Boeing and McDonnell Douglas of the US hoping to clinch the deal.

The contract is a particular boost for Airbus, which said that orders in 1991 plunged to 101 from an expected 145 as the consortium lost out to competitors on several occasions when it had been confident of winning contracts.

In particular, a dollars 3bn order from British Airways for wide-bodied jets went to Boeing. The United order brings total firm orders for A320s to 701 from 35 customers.

The industry is hoping for a recovery after the effects last year of the Gulf war and worldwide economic recession. Airbus's 101 orders in 1991 were down from a record 421 orders received in 1989.

In March, Boeing predicted that total jetliner deliveries would grow to an average of 655 a year from 1992 to the year 2000 and then 580 a year from 2001 to 2010. This compares with an average 467 a year in the 1980s.

UAL recently announced losses of dollars 92.3m after tax in the first three months of 1992.

The company is one of the largest carriers in the US but has suffered from a downturn in traffic on domestic routes, where it has about two-thirds of its capacity. Recently United has expanded international traffic, including Britain-US routes.

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