US Airways outlined plans yesterday to convert most of its aircraft fleet to European-made Airbus jets, pinning part of its overseas-expansion plans on a midsize jet still in development.
US Airways said it agreed to buy 92 Airbus jets over the next decade or so, giving it planes to expand its international routes and replacement aircraft for its aging domestic Boeing fleet.
US Airways Group Inc. and Airbus S.A.S., in a joint announcement at the Paris Air Show, said the order included 22 of the new A350 XWB aircraft, the manufacturer's long-haul wide-body still in development. That would make US Airways the first U.S. carrier to fly the A350 XWB, although deliveries are not expected until 2014.
The move appeared to buck a recent trend by many airlines of choosing Boeing over Airbus. But US Airways president Scott Kirby said the airline's goal of an 80 percent Airbus fleet would save US Airways money on maintenance and pilot training.
It was unclear how much the Airbus sales price or terms affected US Airways' decision. The companies said the total value of the order had not been determined. A US Airways spokesman said the list price for all 92 planes today is $9 billion to $10 billion, but airlines usually get volume discounts.
Airbus also announced at the show that Qatar Airways would buy 86 new jets, 80 of them the same midsize A350 XWBs US Airways ordered. Before yesterday, Airbus had only 13 firm orders for the plane, compared with 584 orders for its competitor, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Airbus last year launched a costly redesign of the A350 XWB after airlines scorned its earlier model and it was forced to renegotiate orders it had taken, including 22 from US Airways. Analysts said US Airways was taking a risk in ordering a plane with that history.
"It's certainly a long bet that they think that airplane is going to be available," said Robert W. Mann, an aviation consultant in Port Washington, N.Y. "Airbus has said there are going to be no more changes, but I'm from Missouri on that one," he said, referring to the state's slogan: "Show Me."
US Airways said it would buy an additional 10 Airbus A330 jets, the same type of newer planes it now uses on routes between Philadelphia and Europe. Eventually, the A330s will replace the Boeing 767 jets that also are used for transatlantic flights.
The airline also said it had the option to change the A330 order to a longer-range Airbus model capable of flying nonstop between Philadelphia and China, Japan or India.
US Airways last week announced plans to continue adding seasonal and year-round international destinations to the 19 European cities it now serves on nonstop routes from Philadelphia. US Airways has said that it would apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation government for a nonstop Philadelphia-Shanghai route, starting in 2008 or 2009, and that it was interested in serving Tokyo and India.
US Airways' order includes 60 medium-size jets in the A320 family, including A319, A320 and A321 models, and will be added to a previous order with Airbus for 37 of the same types. The A320-family jet will replace older Boeing 737s, the airline said.
Contact staff writer Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.