International Airlines Group – the parent company of British Airways and Iberia – has unveiled firm orders for 18 Airbus A350 long-haul jets for BA, with options for 18 more.
It also said it was talking with both Airbus and Boeing about buying more planes for the Spanish side of the business. Firm orders would only follow when Iberia is in a position to grow profitably after restructuring, IAG said.
One industry watcher called it a blow for Boeing in the lucrative “mini-jumbo” plane market, which is almost entirely dominated by the US manufacturer’s wide-bodied 777.
That comment came from Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at aviation consultants Avitas and former chief economist at Douglas Aircraft, which is now part of Boeing.
But he added that after a period of production upheaval in the aircraft industry, many airlines might prefer the relatively safer option of a widely expected upgrade of the existing 777.
Separately, French sources told Reuters that more Airbus sales could feature in a visit to China by President Francois Hollande. Top Airbus officials are in a business delegation expected to travel with Hollande on the April 25-26 trip.
Analysts say if Airbus’ momentum continues following a period of mixed order success for the A350-1000, the BA sale could put pressure on its US rival to speed up its revamp of the hugely successful, but older and heavier 777.
Larry Loftis, who is the 787 Dreamliner programme chief, said on Monday that a three-month grounding of the 787 over battery problems had not diverted attention from new projects such as the revamped “777X”.