US Airways orders 20 Airbus A350 jets
PHOENIX – US Airways Group Inc. has ordered 20 Airbus A350 planes honoring its promise to buy the fuel-efficient aircraft aimed at trans-Atlantic flights as part of a financing deal for the airline’s acquisition by America West Airlines.Airbus SAS announced the binding order on Tuesday but did not disclose the financial terms. At list price, the 20 planes would be worth an estimated $4 billion, but buyers of multiple planes often get discounts.The European aircraft maker provided financing to help America West Holdings Corp. complete its purchase of US Airways, a deal closed in late September. As part of that deal, the airline agreed to buy the 20 Airbus A350’s, designed to compete with Boeing’s 787 “Dreamliner.” The combined airline kept the US Airways name.The new aircraft will begin replacing US Airways’ current fleet of Boeing 767s and Airbus A330s in 2011 on the airline’s trans-Atlantic routes, said US Airways spokesman Carlo Bertolini. All of the wide-body planes were part of the old US Airways’ fleet; America West had nothing bigger than a Boeing 757 before the merger.Currently, US Airways flies to about a dozen European cities, primarily from Philadelphia and Charlotte, N.C.Right now, given the number of trans-Atlantic flights they operate, the A350 “seems like too much of an airplane for their route system,” said Ray Neidl, an analyst for Calyon Securities. The planes are designed to carry 253 passengers.It’s not clear where the company will use all 20 planes, he said, but the management, which came from America West, is fairly sharp, he said.”Maybe they took the aircraft for the financing, but they’re pretty astute,” Neidl said.Still, he said he’ll remain nervous until he sees what the company plans to do with the fleet of A350s.Airbus and Boeing Co. have been locked in a heated battle for sales of their mid-sized fuel-efficient planes. The A350 won’t enter service until 2010, two years after Boeing’s 787.Airbus, owned by European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and BAE Systems PLC, has secured 155 orders so far and commitments from 11 customers.In October, the governments of France, Germany, Britain and Spain agreed to help aid development of the A350 – part of a growing dispute between the United States and Europe over subsidies and tax breaks to aircraft makers.The U.S. filed World Trade Organization litigation last year against European Union governments for funding of Airbus jet programs.