Order for 70 Airbus super jumbos is biggest in civil aviation history

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The Independent Online

The troubled plane-maker Airbus has won an order from Emirates for aircraft that could be worth as much as $31bn (£15bn).

Emirates, the biggest Arab airline, has said it will buy 70 Airbus A350 planes, with an option on the purchase of for 50 more, including 11 double-decker A380s.

The announcement was made at the Dubai Air Show.

The deal is a boost for the 300-seat Airbus A350, the pan-European company's challenger to the Boeing 787, which is cheaper and due to enter service five years ahead of the Airbus model.

The A380 order adds to the Dubai-owned carrier's backlog of 47, the largest for the super jumbo plane from any airline.

Airbus employs 13,000 at factories in Broughton, north Wales, and Filton, near Bristol, where the wings are made. Another 125,000 jobs in supplier companies depend on Airbus's UK activities (though UK partner BAE Systems sold out last year).

Rolls-Royce is also a major beneficiary of the move, which may be worth as much as $8.4bn, asRolls-Royce offers theonly engine available on the Airbus plane.

Boeing was not left entirely out of the news; 12 Boeing 777 planes are also on order, and Emiratessaid it was committingclose to $35bn overall with these deals.

"Emirates is making aviation history," the chairman and chief executive ofEmirates, Sheik Ahmedbin Saeed al-Maktoum, said in a statement. "This is the largest ever aircraft commitment in civil aviation made by any airline in asingle order."

"It's a tremendous win for the A350," said Nick Cunningham, an analyst with Evolution Securities in London. "It validates the program and is exactlywhat it needs to get it offthe ground."

Asked why Emirates chose Airbus over Boeing, the Emirates airline president, Tim Clark, said: "The 787-9 wasn't suitable for us and the 787-10 wasn't available to us."

Emirates is willing to talk to Boeing when the 787-10 is available, he said, but Boeing's 787 program is "too fragile at the moment," Mr Cunningham said.

The 787 Dreamliner model is due at the end of next year, six months later than planned. Boeing had 710 orders for the plane as of mid-October, the company's most successful sales effort for a new model.

Boeing has not formally offered the 787-10, a longer-range and bigger version of its 787-9.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes president, Scott Carson, conceded that Boeing lost the Emirates order. "Obviously Boeing would like to win every venture we're involved in," he said. "We didn't have the airplane they wanted at this time."

Emirates is one of the air industry's success stories. It started in 1985 with two leased planes, and now has 110 aircraft including freighters. It has more than 100 planes on order.

The airline has added destinations in China and India, believing that its location in the Middle East will help to boost its status as a major international carrier and that of Dubai as a regional hub.